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Court martial dismisses 11 Magdalo soldiers over Oakwood mutiny

Michael Punongbayan, Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - July 11, 2008 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Eleven military officers who took part in the failed Oakwood mutiny five years ago were ordered dismissed from military service by a court-martial yesterday after they pleaded guilty to violating Article of War No. 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman).

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the conviction of the 11 military officers was an intra-military affair, and that the Palace will not make any further comment.

“We respect the decision of the court-martial, and we will await further developments on the case,” he said.

Although they were not ordered imprisoned, the 11 will remain in a military jail since they are still facing charges of rebellion and coup d’etat before a military and civilian court.

The 11 military officers are: Capt. Gary Alejano and First Lieutenants Jonnel Sanggalang and Billy Pascua (Marines); Lieutenants Senior Grade Andy Torrato, Eugene Louie Gonzales, James Layug and Manuel Cabochan, Ltjg Arturo Pascua Jr., and Ensign Armand Pontejos (Navy); Capt. Segundino Orfiano and 1Lt. Francisco Asheley Acedillo (Air Force).

“This General Court-Martial, after deliberations in executive session held in chambers and upon secret written ballot, declares upon each unanimous vote and hereby adjudges the 11 accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge covered by Article of War of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,” declared Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Legaspi, president of the seven-member military tribunal.

The 11 junior officers stood at attention and showed no emotion as Legaspi read the verdict.

“Premises considered... this General Court-Martial voted unanimously and hereby imposes the following sentence upon the 11 accused AFP officers to be discharged from the military,” Legaspi said.

The 11 military officers also underwent Pre-Trial Investigation (PTI) – the military equivalent of a preliminary investigation – in connection with the Peninsula Manila incident last year.

Legaspi said the verdict against the 11 military officers would only become final and executory after approval by President Arroyo, the Armed Forces commander-in-chief.

“Without expressed instructions from the President and commander-in-chief thereon… the accused officers who are presently receiving any pay and/or allowances shall continue to do so unless and until otherwise directed by the President,” read the court’s ruling.

Only six of the Magdalo mutineers remain on trial in connection with the Oakwood uprising.

They are Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, and fugitive Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, Marine 2Lt. Junnibert Tubo, Edwin Duetao, Alquin Canson and Army 1Lt. Warren Lee Dagupon.

Man with the funny hat

Senior State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco is asking Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 to include former Master Sergeant Elmer Colon in the list of accused in the original charge sheet lodged against Trillanes and more than a dozen other Magdalo rebel soldiers.

Colon was described in reports as the man wearing a “funny hat” who marched with Trillanes and other rebel soldiers from the Makati City Hall to the Peninsula Manila hotel at the corner of Makati and Ayala Avenues in Makati.

Justice department prosecutors also want two other persons identified as former Privates First Class Monchito Lusterio and Josil Regulacion to be charged with rebellion for participating in the Peninsula Manila standoff last November.

In a motion to admit amended information, prosecutors said they have found probable cause to have the three individuals included in the charge sheet and tried with Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.

“Respondent Colon, wearing a wig and a Magdalo armband, provided security to the leaders, followers and supporters of the said group together with respondent Lusterio and respondent Regulacion who was then beside respondent Faeldon,” read the DOJ resolution.

All three, who are at large, were also involved in the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, prosecutors said.

Represented by their lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., Colon, Lusterio and Regulacion claimed that there is neither factual nor legal basis for their inclusion as respondents in the case.

The only documentary evidence being used against them are sworn statements that they were spotted with Trillanes and his group while marching along Makati Avenue, which does nor constitute a crime or the crime being charged, added Lusterio and Regulacion.

AIR FORCE LEGASPI LUSTERIO AND REGULACION MAGDALO MILITARY OFFICERS PENINSULA MANILA TRILLANES
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