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Freed Magdalos go job-hunting, struggle around Metro

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:16:00 05/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — It was a two-fold struggle for a group of former Army rebels in their first hours of freedom: finding their way around Metro Manila and trying hard not to break the law.

“We were very careful [not to commit] jaywalking,” former Army Captain Albert Baloloy said jokingly.

Under the conditional pardon which was approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the nine recipients should not be arrested for any offense, or else, they would return to jail. They are also barred from rejoining the military service.

Immediately after their release from Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City at noon Friday, five of the nine pardoned officers — Baloloy, former Captains Alvin Ebreo and John Andres, and former First Lieutenants Cleo Donga-as and Florentino Somera — went straight to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) headquarters in Quezon City to discuss
their possible employment as agents there.

The group spoke to and the Philippine Daily Inquirer at the PDEA headquarters early Friday evening, before they met with PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago.

Commuting from Taguig City to Quezon City was not easy, said the men, who were detained for almost five years for allegedly leading the so-called Oakwood mutiny in Makati City in 2003.

“We were a bit disoriented. We couldn’t tell which way was north and which way was south,” Donga-as said.

After walking from their detention cell to the Fort Bonifacio gate, they took a taxi to a nearby Metro Rail Transit (MRT) station. Turned off by the long lines to the train, they flagged down another taxi to take them to Quezon City.

In the middle of the EDSA highway, before the Guadalupe bridge in Makati City, their taxi broke down.

“So this is how it feels looking for a job,” Baloloy said, making light of the commute.

They finally arrived at the PDEA at around 2:30 p.m., and waited for an audience with Santiago at around 6 p.m.

The group said they were informed of their release only on Friday. They said they did not have enough time to pack and left many of their belongings in their cells.

They said the Philippine Army offered them a place to spend the night, but they refused, saying they would not be allowed to enter Fort Bonifacio at night, given their new status as civilians.

Nonetheless, Somera said: “We would like to express our gratitude to the Army.”

Pursuant to their sentence before a court martial, they were also discharged from the military, though formal discharge orders have yet to be released.

The nine officers were sentenced to between five to 40 years in jail in a separate coup d’etat case at the Makati regional trial court, after they reversed their pleas from “not guilty” to “guilty.”

On Monday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she was pardoning the nine officers, upon the recommendation of former military chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who retired on the same day.

A month before, the nine, led by Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo, made an emotional televised appeal for Arroyo’s “mercy” to grant them pardon.

Ebreo belied observations that the pardon played out like a script.

“That’s just the analysis of the lawyers [of other accused officers]. We were not expecting [the pardon] 100 percent,” he 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.

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Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2008-05-17T05:06:17+00:00UTC05bUTCSat, 17 May 2008 05:06:17 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

Posted in Uncategorized

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