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Ex-rebel soldiers seek ‘redemption’ as anti-drug agents

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:03:00 05/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Seeking “redemption” and hoping to harness their idealism in a “better way,” former rebel soldiers from the Magdalo group chose to join the government’s anti-illegal drugs unit, instead of more lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Fresh off their release from detention after being pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, five former junior officers from the Army, met with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Dionisio Santiago to seek possible employment.

If Albert Baloloy, Alvin Ebreo, Cleo Donga-as, John Andres, and Florentino Somera are hired, they will join 17 other former Magdalo junior officers, who were released before them, at the PDEA.

“Our entry into PDEA is redemption. [We were called] mutinous soldiers in the papers. This is our chance to prove ourselves,” said Emerson Rosales, a former Navy ensign, who is among the 17 new PDEA drug enforcement officers.

“The idealism is still there, but now, we want to show our idealism in a better way,” said Ronald Allan Ricardo, a former Marine lieutenant.

“There are still reforms to be done, but we have learned that reforms can be done through proper channels,” Ricardo added.

Former Navy Ensign Juvenal Azurin said he has received offers to become a security consultant, where he would be paid up to P40,000 a month, but he chose to work with PDEA.

“Our motivation is the satisfaction to serve,” Baloloy said.

On July 27, 2003, some 300 junior officers and enlisted men seized the Oakwood luxury apartments in Makati City to protest alleged corruption in government.

All but a small group, led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, and fugitive Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, remain in detention while on trial before civilian and military courts. The rest were freed after plea bargains or reversal of not guilty pleas.

“Personally, I have none. If that did not happen, we would not be here today,” Azurin said when asked if he regretted joining the so-called Oakwood mutiny.

When they seized Oakwood, Donga-as said the groups intentions were “pure,” but during their five years in detention, some of them realized that their actions were a mistake.

“Our intention is pure, but it will never justify the means. We realized that true change will not come from those actions. We realized our mistake. It was a big mistake for military officers like us,” he said.

The group scoffed at observations of a split within the Magdalo, into a defiant faction and a faction that has reaffirmed support to the Arroyo government.

“Hindi ko masasabing faction ‘yun [I will not call that a faction],” Rosales said, adding the actions of each member was a “personal decision.”

“We treat one another as family,” Ricardo said.

Azurin said the name “Magdalo” was a media-coined term, based on the insignia on the red arm bands they wore during the uprising, which was fashioned after a faction of the “Katipunan” that fought Spanish occupation at the turn of the 20th century.

The group was careful when asked if they believed in allegations linking Arroyo to massive corruption and election fraud in 2004.

“I don’t have personal knowledge,” Rosales said.

“Hindi ko masabi, wala kami doon [I can’t say, we weren’t there],” Azurin said.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2008-05-17T14:24:09+00:00UTC05bUTCSat, 17 May 2008 14:24:09 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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