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Archive for November 9th, 2007

Accused ‘plotters’ walk out on ‘sham’ court martial

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:17pm (Mla time) 11/09/2007

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — (UPDATE 2) The Scout Ranger and Marine officers accused of an alleged coup plot in February 2006 walked out of their court martial hearing on Friday, after military prosecutors insisted on proceeding even with a crucial document remaining unsigned by the chief of staff.


Defense lawyers walked out first, followed by the officers, who allegedly plotted to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on allegations of election fraud.

“I cannot take part in these sham proceedings because the accused are not legally charged. They have the right to know the allegations against them. They have the right not to participate in these sham proceedings,” defense counsel Francisco Chavez said.

Other lawyers followed Chavez, leaving only two defense counsel — Trixie Cruz-Angeles and Gilbert Gallos — in the courtroom.

Military police tried to prevent the walkout by closing the door, but ex-Marine commandant Major General Miranda, pushed it open, saying, “Padaanin nyo kami, kaso namin ito [Get out of our way. This is our case].”

The bone of contention was the pre-trial advice (PTA), the equivalent of an indictment in civilian courts, in which Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. recommended the filing of mutiny charges against the accused officers.

The PTA overturned the recommendation of the pre-trial investigation (PTI) of military prosecutors, which only recommended the filling of lesser charges against the group.

Defense lawyers refused to continue with the trial unless Esperon signed the PTA.

The military has argued that Esperon did not need to sign the PTA since he issued a memorandum that approved the filing of charges against the 19 Scout Rangers and nine Marine officers for mutiny.

The law member of the court panel, Lieutenant Colonel Marian Alledo, asked Angeles and Gallos to represent all 28 accused, but the officers refused, saying they had the right to counsel of their choice.

The court then called Captain Isagani Criste to exercise his right to peremptory challenge, but he refused, saying, “I will only exercise my right to peremptory challenge once the PTA is signed.”

A peremptory challenge is a right accorded to an accused to before a court martial to eject any member of the court, without laying basis, at any time before his arraignment.

Three others gave the same answer when called to the stand, Captain Frederick Sales, First Lieutenant Ervin Divinagracia, and Captain Allan Aurino.

At this point, the court, acting on a motion from the prosecution, waived the right of all the accused to a peremptory challenge, after which, the members of the court, led by Major General Jogy Leo Fojas, were sworn in.

“The court is now duly-constituted,” Alledo said after the hearing.

Asked what would happen if the accused refuse to attend the next hearing, Alledo said: “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”

The swearing-in of the court members will pave the way for the arraignment of the accused. The court has to arraign the officers before the two-year prescription period from the commission of the offense prescribes next year, or else, the charges could be dropped.

The 28 officers are detained at a maximum security compound inside Camp Capinpin, where the hearings are held.

“Both parties have reached a deadlock. We cannot proceed until General Esperon signs the PTA,” lawyer Alex Avisado, who represents Criste and Major Jason Aquino, said earlier in the hearing.

“Can the court proceed based on an unsigned information? Jurisprudence says it cannot,” said Chavez, who represents Major General Renato Miranda.

Angeles, who represents Captain Ruben Guinolbay, said that based on Section 35-B of the Manual for Courts Martial, the chief of staff, as convening authority of the court, should sign the PTA.

“The charge sheet is imperfect and incorrect because the PTA is unsigned,” Angeles said during the hearing.

The accused officers are led by ex-Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, ex-Scout Rangers chief Brigadier General Danilo Lim, and ex-1st Marine Brigade chief Colonel Ariel Querubin.

Lim and Querubin, supposedly with Miranda’s knowledge, allegedly planned to lead soldiers in a mass withdrawal of support from Arroyo on Feb. 24, 2006, the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democratic institutions in the country.

Originally posted at 03:24 pm

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-09T09:41:27+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 09 Nov 2007 09:41:27 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Marine officer sacked for Basilan carnage gets new post

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Another officer retiring, one more still floating

By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:26pm (Mla time) 11/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — One of three Marine officers relieved earlier this year over heavy casualties in the battlefield against the Abu Sayyaf has been given a new post, the Marine commandant said.

Major Nestor Marcelino, the former operations officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8, was recently named Marine Corps adjutant, said Major General Ben Dolorfino.

But his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Felix Almadrones, is set for early retirement, after briefly serving as Marine historian following his relief, Dolorfino said.

The highest-ranked officer sacked over the heavy losses suffered in Basilan, Colonel Ramiro Alivio, has not been given a new assignment, the commandant said.

Alivio is former chief of the 1st Marine Brigade.

“That is their punishment, relief from their posts,” Dolorfino said, adding no other sanctions were poised against the three officers.

Asked why it was taking long for Alivio to get a new post, Dolorfino said: “That’s the difficulty faced by top level officers, it’s hard to get an assignment.”

Troops from MBLT-8 figured in a July 10 encounter with Abu Sayyaf extremists and Moro rebels in Ginanta village, Al-Barkah town that left 14 Marines dead, 10 of them beheaded.

On August 18, 15 Marines were killed after they assaulted an Abu Sayyaf camp in Silangkom village, Ungkaya Pukan town.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-09T09:40:52+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 09 Nov 2007 09:40:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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