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Archive for November 12th, 2007

Accused ‘coup plotters’ salute ‘warrior-lawyer’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:49pm (Mla time) 11/12/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The 28 officers linked to the alleged February 2006 coup plot saluted a military counsel for being a “warrior” and standing up for them during a tension-filled court martial hearing that had the accused walking out last week.

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Marine Major Basilio Pooten refused to take over as counsel for the officers after their civilian lawyers excused themselves from the hearing. The officers eventually walked out on the proceedings in protest.

“We, Marines and Scout Rangers, salute you, Major Pooten,” the officers said in a statement. “You proved yourself to be a true Marine. Being a lawyer, you may not have been a Marine all your career life, but you surely had imbibed that warrior spirit and honor.”.

The officers also worried for Pooten, who they said might find himself “out in the cold” given the “vengeful character” of the military leadership.

But Pooten, in a phone interview, said he was merely doing his job as the military-appointed defense counsel.

He said he refused to take over from the civilian lawyers since, under the Constitution, an accused is entitled to a counsel of his choice.

“I am just doing my job as military defense counsel…I have to exhaust all legal means to protect my clients, General Miranda et al,” Pooten said, referring to former Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, the most senior of the accused officers.

Contrary to reports, Pooten said he did not walk out of the proceedings at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province, where the accused officers are also detained.

The accused and their lawyers want to stop the proceedings until Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. signed the pre-trial advice (PTA), a document that recommended the filing of mutiny and other charges against the 28 officers.

Prepared by Esperon’s own staff judge advocate, the PTA reversed recommendations by a pre-trial investigation to file only lesser charges against some of the 28.

The group allegedly planned a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February 24, 2006, the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and restored democratic institutions in the country.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-12T08:15:59+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 12 Nov 2007 08:15:59 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Abu strength ‘definitely going down,’–military chief

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 12:41pm (Mla time) 11/12/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The strength of the Abu Sayyaf in the southern provinces of Sulu and Basilan is “definitely going down,” Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said, two months after his deadline to reduce the rebel Muslim forces there to an “insignificant” level had expired.

Esperon gave the two-month deadline following a command conference at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters in Zamboanga City in late August, following three major encounters in Basilan and Sulu that left 57 soldiers killed.

More troops were also deployed to Basilan and Sulu as a result of the encounters, said Esperon.

In July 10, 14 Marines were killed, 10 beheaded, in an encounter in a town in Basilan. This was followed by another clash in August 18 when more soldiers were killed.

“I will have to go through more thorough counting but definitely pababa nang pababa [going down],” Esperon said of the Abu Sayyaf’s strength.

“[The Abu Sayyaf has] really been of negligible strength, then, we got several of their commanders in several encounters that have followed after July 10 or August 18, so we are on track,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

And with four brigades running after the Muslim rebels in Sulu and two others in Basilan, Esperon said the extremists have been forced to go “on the run.”

One brigade is composed of three to four 500-man battalions.

The Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for the worst terrorist attacks in the country, including the February 2004 bombing of the Superferry 14 off Manila Bay that left over 200 killed.

In Sulu, the Abu Sayyaf rebels are allegedly providing sanctuary to Umar Patek and Dulmatin of the Jemaah Islamiyah wanted for the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia where over 200 were killed.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-12T04:55:33+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 12 Nov 2007 04:55:33 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Coup suspects in walkout face breach of discipline–Esperon

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 12:26pm (Mla time) 11/12/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Army Scout Ranger and Marine officers who walked out of their hearing before a military court last week could be held liable for “breach of discipline,” Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday.

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Esperon also refused to give in to the accused officers’ demand for him to sign a questioned document, saying the proceedings will continue even without him doing so.

“The court [martial] as an independent [body] can take action on that [walkout]. But at my level, I’m also looking at it because it speaks of a breach in discipline of soldiers who are being tried by a duly-constituted court,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

On Friday, the officers walked out of their mutiny hearing at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province after military prosecutors insisted on proceedings even without Esperon signing the pre-trial advice (PTA).

The PTA had recommended the filing of mutiny and other charges against the 28 officers over the alleged February 2006 coup plot. It overturned recommendations by a pre-trial investigation (PTI) to charge a smaller group with lesser violations of the Articles of War.

“If you a look at the manual, you will not see there anything that says anything that I have to sign the PTA or the PTI,” Esperon said.

Even without him signing the PTA, Esperon said he had approved the mutiny charges against the officers when he issued a memorandum to the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) and his deputy for personnel or J1.

“One thing is clear, I have to make the directive for the charging of persons or officers or enlisted personnel of certain violations of the Articles of War and that is exactly what I did,” he said.

Esperon maintained that he would not sign the PTA, saying, “I do not have to, I do not have to. That’s just part of their delaying tactics.”

Twenty-seven of the 28 officers were present during Friday’s hearing, except for Marine Colonel Januario Caringal, who is reportedly sick.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-12T04:54:45+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 12 Nov 2007 04:54:45 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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