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Archive for April 11th, 2008

Convicted 9 officers to seek pardon

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Speculations of deal with gov’t denied

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:18:00 04/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Nine Army junior officers who were convicted for coup d’etat over a failed uprising in 2003 said they would seek pardon and “mercy” from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even as they belied speculations that they have struck an agreement with the government.

At the same time, the group apologized anew for staging the shortlived mutiny in Makati City.

“I am applying for pardon. We are applying for pardon,” Captain
Gerardo Gambala told a news conference in Fort Bonifacio. “If they are going to give me pardon, I will gladly accept it.”

Should the appeal be rejected, Gambala said: “I will ask for pardon everyday, every week, every month, every year until I will be given my freedom.”

Addressing the President, Gambala said: “I will ask for her mercy and grace, that’s all I can do. I would like to apologize to her if I have offended her directly and indirectly because of my actions in Oakwood,” referring to the posh apartment in Makati City which he and his fellow rebel officers and soldiers seized in July 27, 2003 to demand Arroyo’s resignation over allegations of corruption.

Gambala was close to tears as he read from a prepared statement, which he, Captains Milo Maestrecampo, Alvin Ebreo, Albert Baloloy, John Andres, Laurence Luis Somera, and John Andres, First Lieutenants Cleo Donga-as and Florentino Somera, and Second Lieutenant Kristopher Bryan Yasay, had signed.

Asked about suspicions of a compromise agreement, Gambala said: “I would like to say categorically that there is no deal between us, the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] or the government.”

“We have nothing to place on the table for any arrangement, and for any deal. We have no leverage. We are just accused,” Maestrecampo said.

“It took us a long time to realize, [but] it’s high time to face the consequences of what we did. Though we have noble intentions in our heart, I have learned to understand that doing things, methodologies, against our laws will not result to reforms,” he said.

“We have trudged the wrong path when we crossed the boundary between professionalism and adventurism,” the group said in the statement, adding that their five years in detention led them to the realization that, “We undoubtedly made a mistake.”

“We apologize to the Filipino people. We humbly ask for your forgiveness for our act of rebellion,” they said.

The group said that while it “envisioned genuine reforms,” its actions “brought political upheaval and further disunity.”

“We apologize to the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP], the institution we have severely damaged. We appeal to our fellow soldiers not to emulate our actions at Oakwood, for no matter how noble our intentions were, what we did can never be justified,” they said.

The Makati regional trial court sentenced Gambala and Maestrecampo to life imprisonment and the seven others of up to 12 years in prison during the promulgation of their case last Tuesday.

This came after the nine reversed their not guilty pleas to guilty to the charge of coup d’etat.

Aside from the nine who were convicted, 22 other officers, including then Navy Lieutenant and now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, were identified as ringleaders of the uprising, and were charged with coup d’etat before the Makati RTC and for violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) before a military court.

Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon is at large, having escaped at the height of siege at the Manila Peninsula last November 29.

Gambala said he hoped that his estranged comrades would respect their move. The core leaders are mostly from the Philippine Military Academy’s 1995 class.

“They are my classmates. They are my foster brothers. One message I can give to them, I respected them for their decision, for their conviction, and in turn, they will also respect our conviction,” Gambala said.

But the nine convicted officers are divided when asked if they would like to return to the military service, in case the President pardons them.

A military court had discharged them from the AFP for violation of Article of War 96 or conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Gambala said he was still thinking about it. Maestrecampo said he would not return to the military and would rather spend time with his family.

Maestrecampo lamented how he was unable to leave detention to visit his father’s wake, and to attend to one of his children who was stricken with dengue fever.

“I would ask for reinstatement,” Baloloy said, adding that soldiering was the “only thing I know how to do.”

Donga-as issued a similar reply: “I would like to go back to the AFP.
[If offered reinstatement] I would gladly accept.”

Somera said he was “not closing any doors.”

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-04-11T06:04:07+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Fri, 11 Apr 2008 06:04:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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