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11 junior officers in 2003 mutiny reverse not guilty pleas

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:34:00 06/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) After a brief meeting with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, 11 core leaders of a short-lived uprising in Makati City in July 2003 reversed their “not guilty” pleas to “guilty” before a court martial.

But unlike their estranged comrades who reversed their “not guilty” pleas earlier, the eleven did not reaffirm their support for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but pledged to support the military organization, defense and prosecution lawyers who were at the 10-minute meeting at Yano’s office said.

The 11 do not include Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, and fugitive Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon.

They are charged for violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), which is punishable with dishonorable discharge from the service and jail time.

The officers who pleaded guilty are Captain Segundino Orfiano Jr., and First Lieutenants Billy Pascua and Francisco Ashley Acedillo from the Air Force; Lieutenants Senior Grade James Layug, Eugene Louie Gonzales, Andy Torato, and Manuel Cabochan, Lieutenant Junior Grade Arturo Pascua, and Ensign Arman Pontejos from the Navy; and Captain Gary Alejano and Second Lieutenant Jonnel Sangalang from the Marines.

Should the court martial accept the reversal of their pleas, only six accused will remain to stand trial over the 2003 uprising: Trillanes, Faeldon, Army First Lieutenant Warren Lee Dagupon, and Marine Second Lieutenants Alquin Canson, Junnibert Tubo, and Edwin Duetao.

Dagupon is charged with violation of AW 96, like Trillanes and Faeldon. The core leaders were charged only for violation of AW 96 because they are on trial on coup d’etat charges before the Makati regional trial court.

Canson, Tubo, and Duetao are charged for violation of AW 96, 63 (disrespect to the President), 64 (disrespect towards superior officer), 67 (mutiny), ad 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).

Except for Acedillo, all of the junior officers who reversed their pleas on Tuesday were also charged with rebellion for joining the occupation of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City on November 29, 2007, on top of the coup d’etat charge in connection with the takeover of the former Oakwood luxury apartments in Makati on July 27, 2003.

“Yes sir, I am aware of the consequence,” Alejano told the court president, Air Force Brigadier General Nathaniel Legaspi, when asked if he was ready to face the consequences of reversing his plea.

“I am not subjected to any kind of intimidation and promises,” Orfiano told the court, when asked if he had struck a deal to reverse his plea.

“Even if there was an offer [for a deal], I will not accept,” Acedillo said, when asked the same question.

Defense counsel Edgardo Abaya asked the court to consider the reversal of plea and the surrender of the group at the height of the Oakwood siege as “mitigating circumstances” in case it sentences the group.

Legaspi said the reversal of plea would be decided in the next hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

The lead military prosecutor, Colonel Pedro Herrera-Davila confirmed to reporters that four of the eleven — Layug, Gonzales, Alejano, and Orpiano — met with Yano for 10 minutes, before the hearing started at around 1:30 p.m.

“They just want to deliver personally the message [that they are reversing their pleas],” Abaya said, when asked why the 11 sought an audience with Yano.

The group also told Yano that they were “wiling to cooperate with the Armed Forces as an institution,” Abaya said.

Abaya said there were no discussions on whether or not the group was reaffirming allegiance to Arroyo as their commander-in-chief.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-06-10T07:48:05+00:00UTC06bUTCTue, 10 Jun 2008 07:48:05 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

Posted in Uncategorized

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