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Esperon hires former rebel officers

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:24:00 08/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines–Like their former boss, seven ex-Army junior officers from the mutinous Magdalo group have traded their guns for peacemakers’ hats.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. confirmed that he hired the seven last month, “without fanfare,” to work in his office’s social integration department for communist rebels, the manual for which the former officers had drafted.

“We are happy to be together working for peace again,” he said.

Some of the seven served under Esperon in the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff’s various assignments in Mindanao, battling Moro rebels and extremists.

The group includes ex-Captains Milo Maestrecampo, Albert Baloloy, John Andres, and Alvin Ebreo, ex-First Lieutenant Cleo Donga-as, and ex-Second Lieutenant Kristopher Bryan Yasay, Esperon said.

They are among nine officers who were pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after a Makati City court convicted them of coup d’etat and sentenced them to between 12 to 40 years in prison.

Ex-Army Captain Gerardo Gambala, who is part of the group, did not join the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) because he would pursue his plan to be a pastor, Esperon said in an interview at the Philippine Navy headquarters late Saturday.

Asked how the group’s military background would help in their new jobs, Esperon said: “It’s very essential, very important because one, if they know the problem of the rebels, they know the systems that go with that.”

Esperon said the group would initially handle the reintegration of former communist rebels.

Asked if the group would also talk with military rebels, Esperon said: “I’m not taking them to that because it might be misinterpreted, as much as possible I will not let them do that.”

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Written by joelguinto

SunUTC2008-08-03T09:14:22+00:00UTC08bUTCSun, 03 Aug 2008 09:14:22 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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