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Archive for April 2nd, 2008

Guilty plea by 9 mutineers a ‘breakthrough’–Army chief

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:48:00 04/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A “breakthrough” and a “step forward” were how the commanding general of the Philippine Army described the decision of nine junior officers linked to a failed uprising in July 2003 to change their plea on coup d’etat charges from innocent to guilty.

The move of the junior officers was a “product of their own volition,” to reunite themselves with their families after close to five years in military stockades, said Lieutenant General Alexander Yano.

The nine Army men who reversed their guilty plea included two alleged ringleaders — Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo.

“After five years, Gambala and the others accused of coup d’etat pleaded guilty, which is a step forward and a breakthrough in the case. We admire the courage of these men,” Yano said.

“What made them decide to plead guilty was definitely a product of their own volition. Personal reasons may be taken into consideration for they have their family and their children too,” he said.

Gambala, Maestrecampo and the seven others — Captains Albert Baloloy, Alvin Ebreo, and John Andres and First Lieutenants Cleo Donga-as, Florentino Somera, and Christopher Brian Yasay — are among twelve junior officers who reversed the guilty pleas before a court martial that had been trying them for violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) and were subsequently discharged from the service.

A total of 31 junior officers, including Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, are on trial for coup d’etat before branch 148 of the Makati regional trial court over the July 27, 2003 siege on the Oakwood luxury apartments.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-02T16:59:57+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 02 Apr 2008 16:59:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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‘Inferior’ Navy will ‘fight to last man’ for Spratlys

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:12:00 04/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy said it would “fight to the last sailor and Marine” to defend the country’s claim to the disputed Spratly Islands, rejecting allegations it would give up the reportedly oil-rich islands without a fight.

Rear Admiral Amable Tolentino, Navy vice commander, issued the statement in reaction to criticisms of his earlier statement that diplomacy is better than going to war over the Spratlys, since the Philippine Navy lacks firepower.

Nevertheless Tolentino said it is the “bitter truth” that the Navy is “inferior” to those of other Spratlys claimants and other countries.

Still, Tolentino said, “Let the people know that our Navy will support every peaceful resolution of the territorial issue with other claimant countries, but is also ready to fight to the last sailors and Marines in defending the territorial integrity of our nation.”

“That is our sworn duty, that is our mandate, that which we are willing to die for,” Tolentino said.

In an interview with reporters at Navy headquarters in Manila, Tolentino stressed he never said that the Navy would not defend the country’s interests in the Spratlys.

“While having admitted that ours is a relatively inferior Navy compared to other claimant countries’ navies, I never said that the Philippine Navy would not put up a fight to defend the territorial integrity of our country when faced with [the] external aggression of a mightier navy,” Tolentino said in the statement.

“My statement of ‘inferior navy’ was merely capability-based which, sad to say, is the bitter truth. While other countries enjoy a modern navy that has newer ships and over-the-horizon scanning and targeting system[s], ours remain far behind,” he said.

Tolentino issued the statement amid the controversy generated by the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), a tripartite agreement among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

The political opposition claims the Philippine government’s claim on the Spratlys has been jeopardized by its entering into the JMSU, allegedly in exchange for a multi-million-dollar loan package from China.

The Spratlys is being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Last week, Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., visited Pag-asa Island to “reinforce” the country’s claim on the islands.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-02T07:39:30+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 02 Apr 2008 07:39:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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Ex-Marine chief reiterates plea to stand trial alone

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:03:00 04/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The most senior of 28 senior officers on court martial over the alleged February 2006 coup plot appealed anew to the military leadership to let him stand trial alone and spare his co-accused.


Major General Renato Miranda, former commandant of the Marine Corps, said it pained him to see his co-accused receiving their families in detention. He said some of the officers are young enough to be his children.

“If there really is a case, as the most senior officer, I am willing to face that,” Miranda told reporters in a chance interview before he was returned to his detention cell at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo.

“It’s painful to see the young officers, every time they are visited by their families, wives, [and] children. It pains me to see all these things for the last two years,” Miranda said.

“Most of them are young enough to be my children. There is really an age gap. They can be my children,” said Miranda, who will retire in December when he turns 56.

Miranda’s co-accused includes captains and first lieutenants in their early 30s. The others include Brigadier General Danilo Lim, former chief of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR), and Colonel Ariel Querubin, former commander of the First Marine Brigade.

The general court martial trying the 28 officers for mutiny and other alleged violations of the Articles of War again failed to arraign the accused on Wednesday, after a lack of quorum forced the proceedings to adjourn.

The court set the next hearing for Tuesday morning.

The charges stemmed from an alleged plot to lead soldiers in a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last February 24, 2006, and a succeeding standoff at Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio two days later.

Lim and Querubin allegedly hatched the plot, with Miranda’s knowledge.

“There is really no connivance, because I met them [co-accused] just recently. We just met,” Miranda said, adding, “With my two years with them [in detention], I know their professionalism.”

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-02T07:38:50+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 02 Apr 2008 07:38:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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