DND, AFP Recommend Executive Clemency for 9 Magdalo Officers

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Byline: Rio Rose Ribaya

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recommended yesterday the grant of executive clemency to the nine military junior officers who were recently convicted of the crime of coup d' etat for their involvement in the July, 2003 failed mutiny.

Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. said he favorably recommended to President Arroyo the granting of executive clemency to the nine Magdalo soldiers after they reiterated their apologies to the Commander-in-Chief and the government.

Teodoro noted that the defense department and the military both found sufficient reasons for endorsing the convicted rebel soldier's application for executive clemency.

"The power of the President under the Constitution to grant executive clemency is absolute once the conditions for the granting pardon are already present. Since there is already a conviction of the crime of coup d' etat, the junior officers are qualified for executive clemency," Teodoro said.

The defense chief also said the recommendation for the grant of pardon to the convicted rebel soldiers is consistent with Mrs. Arroyo's "holistic approach towards achieving national unity and reconciliation."

He explained that reaching out to the rebel officers would be "equally important in achieving national peace" considering that Mrs. Arroyo is poised to grant amnesty to communist insurgents, a move that will likely get the concurrence of Congress.

Meanwhile, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr. confirmed that he made the recommendation for pardon and forwarded it to the President yesterday. "Yes, we have made recommendations (for pardon)," Esperon said in a phone interview.

The military chief cited the junior officers' plea of guilty, their recent public apology and appeal for Mrs. Arroyo's forgiveness. He said these were considered as grounds to recommend the grant of executive clemency.

"These junior officers were led astray by wrong beliefs but have realized their grave mistakes. They are very talented soldiers and we would like to give them another chance to help the country move forward," Esperon said.

Esperon said the defense and military leadership both believe that the five years that the Magdalo soldiers have spent in detention is enough punishment for their participation in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

"These junior officers have suffered detention for four years and nine months and have shown remorse for their illegal acts and appealed for the President's pardon. They have said that military adventurism is no way to achieve reforms and changes, so we have drawn lessons from that," Esperon said.

He noted the officers' call on their fellow soldiers not to follow what they did at the Oakwood Premier Hotel, adding that this was enough to dissuade wouldbe destabilizers. …