MANILA, Philippines - Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon first entered the public eye when he and a group of junior officers led the Oakwood mutiny in the Makati Business District on July 27, 2003.
Among those who accompanied him in leading the mutiny were Army Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo and Navy Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes, who is now a senator.
Faeldon and the leaders of the mutiny said they staged the mutiny to protest corruption in the military and the willing participation of several ranking officers in partisan politics.
The leaders of the mutiny, along with more than 300 soldiers who followed them, surrendered peacefully and were placed under military custody. For Faeldon and most of the mutineers, this meant spending the next 2 years behind bars.
On Dec. 14, 2005, Faeldon made his first escape. He was being brought to a court hearing in Makati when he successfully eluded his military guards.
Since then, Faeldon has been compared to Senator Gregorio Honasan. Then a colonel, Honasan was an elusive fugitive for several years after participating in numerous failed attempts to bring down the Aquino administration.
The charismatic Honasan’s most daring escape was from a Navy ship in the middle of Manila Bay, where he fled with some of his guards.
Faeldon grew more controversial after he posted pictures and a video on the Internet showing that he could enter and leave military bases and police installations freely despite being a fugitive. He said it was his way of showing that he had covert supporters within the rank and file of both the police and military.
He posted pictures showing him inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command headquarters in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and another set showing him inside the AFP Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City.
He posted a video of him talking with a policeman in front of the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
He also called for a civil disobedience campaign against the Arroyo administration in his website Pilipino.org.ph.
Stirring a hornet's nest
Faeldon succeeded in embarrassing the ranking officers of the AFP and PNP with the pictures and videos. However, little did he realize that he had stirred a hornet’s nest.
Authorities, armed with a renewed drive to repay Faeldon for his antics, launched an earnest hunt for Faeldon. They were not disappointed.
A month later, in January 2006, he was recaptured in Malabon. Also arrested with him was Capt. Candelaria Rivas, one of the military lawyers assigned to prosecute his case.
Rivas was arrested on suspicion that she was aiding Faeldon elude arrest, and was ordered to face a court martial. She was found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and subsequently dismissed from the military in 2009.
On November 29, 2007, Faeldon and Trillanes again made headlines. They suddenly left a court hearing in Makati on their rebellion case, and together with Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, who was supposed to testify in the hearing and some of the soldiers who were supposed to guard them, marched on the city streets and holed up inside The Peninsula Manila hotel.
Hundreds of policemen and soldiers quickly surrounded and laid siege on the hotel. The rebel officers and their civilian allies did not stand a chance when a joint team from the AFP and PNP, backed up by an armored personnel carrier, forcibly entered the hotel.
Lim and Trillanes were quickly recaptured, but the slippery Faeldon managed to escape during the confusion after the attack on the hotel.
From fugitive to nuisance
Immediately after The Peninsula Manila incident, the PNP offered a million peso bounty for anyone who provides information leading to Faeldon’s arrest.
It’s been 2 years since the reward was offered, and so far, Faeldon remains at large.
Many believe Faeldon continues to elude authorities because he has been receiving help from soldiers sympathetic to his cause, an assertion that the AFP consistently denies.
It is a denial, however, that rings hollow to many ears because of what happened to Rivas, a former military lawyer.
On April 17, 2008, the AFP officially declared that Faeldon is no longer considered a military threat. For the military, Faeldon is now just a nagging nuisance.