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Esperon vows ‘swift action’ on ‘mistah’ accused of graft

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:15:00 04/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. vowed swift action on the graft case filed against a two-star general, even if the accused officer is his “mistah” or classmate at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

On Monday, the Philippine Army announced that a pretrial investigation found sufficient evidence to try Major General Jose Barbieto and Staff Sergeant Roseller Echipare before a court martial for allegedly extorting from Army recruits.

“I’ll let the staff do their work and I’ll just act on it, of course, as soon as possible,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The recommendation of the Army Judge Advocate awaits the approval of Esperon, who as chief of staff can convene a court martial to try the two officers for alleged violation of Articles of War 55 (officer making unlawful enlistment) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).

Barbieto, who, like Esperon, belongs to the PMA’s 1974 “Marangal” class, faces and additional charge for violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), which is applicable only to officers.

Asked if his being classmates with Barbieto would affect his actions on the case, Esperon said: “Hindi mistah mistah ‘yan [Our being mistahs has nothing to do with this]. You just remember that General Miranda is my classmate. It has nothing to do with being classmates.”

Esperon was referring to another classmate, former Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, whom he approved for trial before a court martial, along with 27 other Marine and Army Scout Ranger officers for allegedly plotting to stage a coup in February 2006.

Barbieto will be the second two-star general to face a court martial for alleged corruption after retired major general Carlos Garcia, who was convicted of violating Articles of War 96 and 97 in December 2005.

Garcia was found guilty of amassing millions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth during his stint as AFP comptroller. He is also facing a P300-million plunder case before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-04-22T07:56:55+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 22 Apr 2008 07:56:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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