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Archive for April 29th, 2008

MILF chief: Gov’t ‘dilly-dallying’ threatening peace process

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Warns of ‘other means’ to attain objectives

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:40:00 04/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) accused government of “dilly-dallying and spoiling” the peace process in the south and warned they might resort to “other means” to achieve their objectives.

Reacting quickly, the chief government negotiator appealed to the secessionist rebels for “forbearance,” saying a number of so-called “consensus points” have to be studied carefully and resolved before an agreement on the contentious issue of ancestral domain issue is reached.

In a statement, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim claimed government’s refusal to abide by the consensus points in the last round of talks is the reason Malaysia, the third party facilitator of the negotiations, announced a pullout of its ceasefire monitors.

“If the peace process fails as a result of the GRP’s [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] dilly-dallying and spoiling, we are left with no choice but to seek other means of achieving our objective. Should that happen, the government is to blame for failing to settle the conflict through diplomatic means,” Murad said in the statement posted on the MILF’s website.

Murad said only the government’s concurrence with all the consensus points would save the peace process from “falling apart” and would signal Malaysia on the need to schedule a fresh round of negotiations.

He said the MILF “firmly believes” in the position of its late chairman, Salamat Hashim, that, “the most civilized and practical way of solving the Moro problem is through a negotiated political settlement.”

During the last round of talks in Kuala Lumpur in February, the government and the MILF drafted nine consensus points, six of which were “largely approved” by Malacañang, said GRP peace panel chairman Rodolfo Garcia.

The MILF submitted its counterproposals on the three remaining points to the GRP, but these have yet to be approved by Malacañang, Garcia told

The three points include the “concept of aspiration of freedom” of the Bangsamoro people, the “degree of powers over strategic resources,” and “establishment of political institutions,” Garcia said without elaborating.

Garcia acknowledged that the three points, if not studied thoroughly, could raise constitutional issues and could open the government to criticism.

“We are looking at these issues. These are not easy issues. These issues are potentially controversial,” he said.

“The slowdown in this phase of the talks is really understandable and should be understood by the MILF and the Malaysian government,” he added.

While no timeline has been set, Garcia said the government would act on the MILF’s counterproposals “the soonest that we can.”

“We know the urgency. We are very aware of the urgency. We know the ball is in our court,” he said.

“I surely would like to convey to our MILF counterparts to understand the reason for the slowdown in the process. I’d like to assure them that the negotiation is very much alive, very much on track. I would like to ask for their forbearance,” he said.

Asked if government action on the three remaining consensus points would require amendments to the Constitution, Garcia said: “It’s an option.”

He said there have been no formal or informal talks between the GRP and MILF panels.

Garcia also doused fears that the impending pullout of the Malaysian contingent to the international monitoring team (IMT) would lead to revived hostilities between the military and MILF.

While he was not discounting the contributions of the IMT, Garcia said the joint ceasefire committee of the GRP and MILF has developed strong mechanisms to prevent an outbreak of fighting.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-04-29T09:03:00+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:03:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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3 officers in 2003 mutiny discharged from service

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2 others meted up to 7 years in prison

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:43:00 04/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Three alleged leaders of a shortlived uprising in 2003 have been ordered discharged from the service while two of their comrades were sentenced up to seven years and six months in prison after they were found “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violating the Articles of War.

Army First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Nathaniel Rabonza, and Sonny Sarmiento were read their sentences during the promulgation of their case on Tuesday.

They were charged with violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), which is punishable only with discharge from the military service.

Meanwhile, aside from being dismissed from the service, Army Second Lieutenant Jason Panaligan and Air Force Second Lieutenant Christopher Orongan were also sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.

The two struck a plea bargain with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to violation of Article of War 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), in exchange for the dropping of more serious charges, including Article of War 97 (mutiny), against them.

The court credited the four years, nine months and one day that Orongan and Panaligan served in detention. It cut three years more from their sentence because of three “mitigating circumstances.”

The three circumstances that the court recognized, as proposed by defense lawyers, included the accused officers’ voluntary surrender, their “long period” in detention, and “good behavior.”

In effect, the accused have served their full sentence and would be released as soon as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as commander-in-chief upholds the verdict.

In its ruling on San Juan, Rabonza, and Sarmiento, the court said they “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously violated their solemn oath and constitutional duty to protect the people” when they seized the Oakwood luxury apartments in the Makati City financial district in July 27, 2003.

The court said the group “attempted to oust the President by force” and “disturbed the peace and tranquility of the nation.”

The law member of the seven-member court, Lieutenant Colonel Ana Escarlan, read the decision. The three officers stood at attention in front of the panel, and saluted the court president, Air Force Brigadier General Nathaniel Legaspi before the verdict was read.

Legaspi read the verdict on Orongan and Panaligan.

Defense lawyer Edgardo Abaya said the court did not specify whether the discharge of the leaders was honorable or dishonorable, since Articles of War, violation of article 96 did not make that distinction.

Abaya said it was up to the President to determine whether the discharge would be dishonorable.

The verdict leaves 17 junior officers left to face court martial over the failed uprising, led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, and Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, who is at large.

Last year, the court discharged 12 Army junior officers, co-accused of San Juan, Sarmiento, and Rabonza.

The 12, led by Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo, also pleaded guilty to violating Article of War 96.

Nine of the 12, including Gambala and Maestrecampo, pleaded guilty to coup d’etat before a civilian court and were sentenced to between 12 and 40 years in prison. They have asked for presidential pardon.

Also in 2007, 53 junior officers, co-accused of Orongan and Panaligan, struck a plea bargain with military prosecutors and were also discharged from the service.

In 2005, 184 enlisted men who took part in the Oakwood uprising were sentenced from one- to two-step rank demotion and forfeiture of their salaries.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-04-29T08:35:10+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:35:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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