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Conditional pardon recommended for 9 convicted officers

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:54:00 04/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The defense and military establishment have recommended a conditional pardon for nine Army junior officers that were convicted of coup d’etat over the failed mutiny in 2003, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could revoke the pardon if the nine would violate any criminal law, Teodoro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Monday.

The officers are also barred from re-entering the military service or taking on jobs in the defense department or in the military, as civilian employees, he said.

“We recommended a conditional pardon for these officers, that the pardon will be effective as long as they do not violate any law. Especially, they do not commit any crime involving moral turpitude while the pardon is in effect,” Teodoro said.

“There is a second condition also that they will not be allowed to rejoin the military service,” Teodoro said.

Should any of the two conditions be violated, Teodoro said the President could revoke the pardon and the accused would serve the remainder of their sentence.

Two of the nine officers, Army Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo were sentenced to life imprisonment, while seven others were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

Asked why the nine could no longer return to active military duty, Teodoro said: “They have broken from the chain of command and that is part of the punishment or penalty that they must suffer for breaking away from the military traditions.”

But the officers, “talented” as they are, could take on jobs in the security sector, Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon said.

The military chief cited the case of the 53 former rebel soldiers who found jobs with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group after they were discharged from the service.

“There are a lot of things that they can do except going back to the military, we will see how versatile they are but I must tell you they are talented,” Esperon said.

Esperon singled out Gambala, who worked under him, battling Islamic extremists in the southern island of Basilan, and a valedictorian at the Philippine Military Academy in 1995.

Teodoro said the press conference hosted by the nine officers in Fort Bonifacio last Friday, where they begged Arroyo to pardon them, was one of the factors that made him decide to forward their request to the President.

“These officers have shown true remorse. They have expressed this publicly. They have faced up to what they have done and were willing to face the consequence of the same. Secondly it goes hand in hand with the political reconciliation effort of the government,” he said.

Teodoro said it was unlikely that the possible grant of pardon to the rebel officers would embolden the troops to turn against government.

“I see the point of the question that it may encourage a similar kind of behavior. I think we have proven that last year, the best way to deter it will be through decisive and swift response and pre-emption,” he said.

Esperon said he was referring to the siege at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City on Nov. 29, 2007 by the rebel soldiers, led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, which ended in a daring military assault.

He said the case of the nine officers was different from that of Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, two officers who were granted amnesty for their participation in the bloody 1989 coup attempt, but were involved in another alleged coup try in February 2006.

“That’s the difference, because they were granted amnesty, which blocks out the offense in law, as if the offense never existed. This time, it’s a conditional pardon where they have to fulfill certain conditions and requirements,” the defense chief said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-04-14T07:02:28+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 14 Apr 2008 07:02:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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