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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

Posted in Uncategorized

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