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Archive for April 3rd, 2008

Military prosecutors to review mutiny raps vs 28 officers

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After plea of ex-Marine commandant

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:56:00 04/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Acting on a special plea by ex-Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, military prosecutors have agreed to a review of the mutiny charges against 28 accused officers linked to an alleged coup plot in February 2006.

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Miranda, the highest-ranked of the accused, entered the special plea for a review of the case due to lack of evidence instead of a guilty or not guilty plea to the mutiny charge.

The military defense counsel, Major Basilio Pooten, entered the special plea for Miranda. Pooten reiterated the defense panel’s argument that there was no basis to charge the officers with mutiny since this was not recommended by pre-trial investigators.

The court then ordered the prosecution panel to forward the request for a review of the case to the convening authority of the court martial, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“This is a step in the right direction,” defense lawyer Trixie Angeles said of the review.

Asked if the defense panel was hopeful the review would determine that there was no basis to charge the officers, from the Marine Corps and Army Scout Rangers, lawyer Vicente Verdadero said: “I believe there is good in every man’s heart.”

Should the review determine a lack of evidence, military prosecutors would file a “nole prosequi” that would lead to the dismissal of the case, said Captain Edgardo Abad, a member of the prosecution panel.

“This is a show of good faith… All of us have the same goal, to seek the truth,” Abad said.

Abad said Miranda was considered arraigned on the mutiny charge, one of several charges lodged against the officers, when he entered the special plea.

While pretrial investigators recommended the dropping of the mutiny charge, Esperon, through his staff judge advocate, reinstated it, without giving any justification.

The pretrial advise that reinstated the mutiny charge was also unsigned by the military chief, defense lawyers alleged.

The pretrial advise follows the pretrial investigation report, and is the last step before a full-blown court martial trial.

Among the 28 accused officers are Brigadier General Danilo Lim, the former chief of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR), and Colonel Ariel Querubin, the ex-commander of the First Marine Brigade.

Lim and Querubin, with Miranda’s knowledge, allegedly planned to lead soldiers in February 2006 in a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on charges of election fraud and corruption.

The court president, Major General Jogy Leo Fojas, set the next hearing on April 18.

During the hearing on Thursday, one of the members of the court, Air Force Brigadier General Rolando Capacia, inhibited himself voluntarily even before Miranda sought his ejection from the panel through a challenge for cause.

Capacia did not elaborate on his reasons for inhibiting himself, except for saying that, “I see conflict in my personal circumstance.”

The court later swore in Capacia’s replacement, Brigadier General Gilbert Abanto, who is also from the Air Force.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-04-03T08:12:10+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Thu, 03 Apr 2008 08:12:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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