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Esperon defends ‘harsh’ treatment of ‘coup plotters’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:51:00 05/05/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. stood by his “harsh” treatment of rebel soldiers, saying this was part of his mandate under military law.

At the same time, Esperon said threats of a power grab have been quelled before he relinquishes his post on May 12 to Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, the current Army commanding general.

“What can I tell them [coup suspects]? I have to be harsh because that’s my mandate, and military law is harsh. Trabaho lang ‘yun [That’s just part of the job]. It’s also my conviction,” Esperon told reporters at Villamor Airbase.

“We have the military justice system working. We have instilled among our ranks the correct attitude that you are in the service to serve the people and not attempt to grab power,” he added.

Asked if threats of a power grab have been quelled, he said: “I think so…Amid some rumors that some elements of the Armed Forces will join destabilizers, it never happened.”

During his almost 22 months as chief of staff, Esperon tightened the noose on the suspects in the alleged February 2006 coup plot, and sent 28 officers to face court martial, including Major General Renato Miranda, the former Marine Corps commandant, Brigadier General Danilo Lim, the former chief of the Army Scout Rangers, and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin.

Esperon had the accused officers detained at maximum security facilities at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province, and at the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo.

But Esperon’s term was not without bouts of military adventurism.

On November 29, 2007, Lim, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and the Magdalo group of junior officers, who were behind a failed uprising in 2003, seized the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City for six hours.

Like the alleged February 2006 coup plotters, the Magdalo group called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign on allegations of massive election fraud in 2004 and corruption.

Esperon was allegedly involved in the cheating, and continues to be haunted by the charge ahead of his retirement.

Last week, an e-mail statement titled “Sins of the Cavaliers,” which detailed the alleged role of military officers in the supposed electoral fraud, was circulated in the Internet.

Asked about the statement, Esperon said: “If they have anything, evidence, then they should come out otherwise they remain to be gripers who fabricate charges but are never willing to come out in the open.”

Addressing his critics, he said: “Well, better luck next time. Thank you for your criticisms if they were constructive. But if it was just meant to smear us, then, better luck next time.”

Esperon also lamented how his outspoken wife, Lorna, had been targeted by critics, after some contracts at the AFP Medical Center, where she works as a doctor, were disapproved.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-05-05T13:22:08+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 05 May 2008 13:22:08 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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