2 Magdalo officers get life over Oakwood mutiny

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2008 10:06 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2008 06:06 PM

Two of nine rebel military officers who pleaded guilty to the crime of coup d’etat last week were meted life sentences Tuesday for participating in the failed 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Initial reports said Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo were meted life sentences by Makati Regional Trial Court branch 148 presiding Judge Oscar Pimentel.

Seven other officers of the so-called Magdalo group were sentenced from six to 12 years in prison for leading 300 soldiers in the failed mutiny. They were identified as Captains Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Luis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres and First Lieutenants Cleo Dongaas, Florentino Somera and Kristoffer Bryan Yasay.

The nine officers are part of 22 Oakwood mutineers, including Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, on trial for coup d’etat. Last week, the nine changed their plea from "not guilty" to "guilty."

Gambala and Maestrecampo earlier led core leaders of the Magdalo group when they read their statement of apology to President Arroyo for the 2003 incident. The leaders include Trillanes who was then a Navy Lt. s.g. during the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, Capts. Nicanor Faeldon and Gary Alejano, Lt. s.g. James Layug.

Although Mrs. Arroyo accepted the junior officers’ apology, she said the cases against the six mutiny leaders would continue in accordance with existing civil and military laws.

Gambala and Maestrecampo did not join Trillanes, Layug, Faeldon who together with Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim walked out of a Makati court room last November 29 and holed up at the Peninsula Manila hotel.

Possible executive clemency
Lawyer Ernesto Francisco, a lawyer of the other members of the Magdalo group, earlier said he was surprised that the nine junior officers had pleaded guilty to the coup charges.

"That is very unusual, that they will plead guilty to a capital offense. We need to ask their lawyers," he told radio dzMM.

He added: "It is also possible that they are just waiting for executive clemency. There could be an arrangement that they will be pardoned."

Lawyer Ernesto Francisco, who represents eight of the other accused military officers who had not changed their plea to guilty, intends to present more than a dozen witnesses to prove that his clients did not stage a coup d’etat.

He said he wants President Arroyo to take the witness stand, along with Moro Islamic Liberation Front head Al Haj Murad or spokesman Eid Kabalu.

The prosecution is blocking the move on grounds that the testimonies of these witnesses are irrelevant and immaterial to the case.

“No subpoena can be issued by any branch of the judicial department to the President of the Philippines,” the prosecution said.

“The other personalities being asked to take the witness stand for the defense have nothing to do with whether or not the accused and other members of the Magdalo Group did or did not stage a coup d’etat more than four years ago.”