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Pardon for 9 officers ‘in realm of possibilities’–Esperon

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:15:00 04/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A presidential pardon for nine rebel junior officers who have been meted lengthy jail terms over a shortlived uprising in 2003 is in the “realm of possibilities,” Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Wednesday.

“A presidential pardon is in the realm of possibilities,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Even after the officers reversed their not guilty pleas to guilty, Judge Oscar Pimentel of Branch 148 of the Makati regional trial court still sentenced Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo to life imprisonment and seven others to up to 12 years in jail.

The nine Army men are part of the faction of the self-styled Magdalo group that have apologized for the July 27, 2003 uprising in the Makati financial district and reaffirmed allegiance to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Asked if the officers deserved to be pardoned, Esperon said: “I will not even comment on that because that will infringe on the President’s prerogative.”

“But indeed, there are mitigating circumstances, they went to barracks peacefully, they have become staunch advocates against military adventurism, they have behaved well while in confinement, they have shown remorse,” he said.

Esperon cited the case of 53 other Magdalo junior officers, who were freed from detention in December after Arroyo granted them executive clemency and commuted their sentences by a month.

The 53 officers were charged before a court martial, but not before the Makati RTC, where only the alleged leaders of the uprising were charged with coup d’etat. The 53 struck a plea bargain with military prosecutors.

The nine junior officers who were sentenced to imprisonment by the Makati court were among 12 who reversed their not guilty pleas before a court martial on alleged violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).

Esperon said the resolution of their civilian case could expedite the President’s action on the verdict of the court martial on the 12 officers.

Violation of AW 96 is punishable only with dishonorable dismissal from the service.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-04-09T09:23:37+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 09 Apr 2008 09:23:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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