9 Magdalo officers pardoned

PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday said she has pardoned nine Magdalo soldiers who pleaded guilty to charges of coup d’état in connection with the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Arroyo announced the pardon during the leadership turnover ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, saying it was her “last act” as commander in chief of Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who retired yesterday and was replaced by Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano.

“My last act as CIC of CSAFP Jun Esperon… is to approve his recommendation on the Magdalo soldiers,” she said.

She said the “dismal failure” of destabilization attempts underscores how out of touch the plotters are with the mood of the nation, which she said is clamoring for peace, order and stability, instead of more political shenanigans.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the President has signed the pardon order, which was forwarded to her Friday.

Ermita said the other faction of the Magdalo, which continues to defy the Arroyo administration, “can use their better reason to help them out of their situation.”

Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala on April 11 appealed for presidential pardon on behalf of the nine Magdalo officers after the Makati regional trial court handed down their sentences on April 8.

Gambala and Capt. Milo Maestrecampo were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years imprisonment.

Army Captains Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Louis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres, 1Lt. Florentino Somera, 2Lt. Kristoffer Bryan Yasay and 1Lt. Cleo Dongga were sentenced to prison mayor or six to 12 years in jail.

Esperon said he appreciates the President’s decision “because at least one chapter was closed while I was about to retire.”

“That gives us an idea of the thrust of government for unity and reconciliation for people who are willing to be united and reconciled and go with us in moving this country forward,” he added.

Gambala and Maestrecampo served under Esperon while he was a brigade commander in Basilan.

Esperon recommended the pardon last month to Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., saying the nine officers have shown remorse and have turned against military adventurism.

Asked for his message to other “adventurists” in the military, Esperon said: “I have no message to them.”

“All I know is that the military justice system and the justice system of the land is working and it’s taking its due course so for me as a citizen now, I would suggest that we follow the laws of the land,” he said.

Teodoro said the nine junior officers would be released from detention at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio if they agreed to the terms and conditions of the pardon.

“They have to make a formal acceptance of the conditions,” he said, adding he does not yet know what the conditions were as the pardon has just been announced by the President.

Fugitive mutiny leader Capt. Nicanor Faeldon told Arroyo to keep Esperon close “for he is rare among us in uniform.”

He accused Arroyo of having “corrupted a once worthy officer into a personal guard dog.”

He described Esperon as “an officer willing to prostitute his own institution just to keep you, a fake President, in power.”

“The honors and awards you lavish on him today may seem to prove that lying and stonewalling make for a rewarding career. It certainly proves that Gen. Esperon was right when he told us, as he continues to tell young officers now, to always think of your careers first,” Faeldon said in a statement issued through his lawyer Trixie Angeles.

He said he and his group would continue the fight against the Arroyo administration and for a credible government.

“You and your lap dogs have tried to dismiss us by describing us as `misguided’ officers with messianic complexes, while at the same time accusing us of being guided by self-interest. But the years have proven us right: seven years into your presidency, (you) have perfected lying into an art and forced us to live with your lies. Worse, you have corrupted institutions and those who serve and head these institutions,” he said.


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