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5 Magdalo soldiers ordered discharged after plea change

April 29, 2008 11:32am

(Updated 12:20 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine military court on Tuesday sentenced five Magdalo soldiers to be discharged from service for pleading guilty in their involvement in the short-lived July 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Ordered discharged from the military service were: Army 1st Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Sonny Bumidang, and Nathaniel Rabonza.

The three were discharged after they changed their pleas to guilty for violation of Articles of
War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman) for their participation in the July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

The military court, presided by Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Legaspi, also sentenced two other military officers, namely 1Lt. Jason Panaligan and 2Lt. Christopher Orogan, to 7 years and 6 months imprisonment for violating AW 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).

Panaligan and Orongan pleaded guilty in exchange for the dropping of the other charges they are facing before the military tribunal: AW 96, AW 63 (disrespect toward the President, Vice President, members of Congress and the Secretary of National Defense), AW 64 (disrespect to a superior officer) and AW 67 (mutiny or sedition).

In its ruling, the military court said the mitigating circumstances led to the reduction of Panaligan's and Orongan's sentences by three years.

The ruling was read by Lt. Col. Ana Escarlan, the law member in the military tribunal.

The court's decision is still subject to the approval of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who also has the discretion to withhold the salaries of the accused soldiers until their sentence has been approved.

On April 4, the five junior officers changed their original positions and pleaded guilty to charges of violating provisions of the Armed Forces Articles of War.

This came weeks after 9 other Magdalo soldiers - all of who are Army officers - changed their plea to coup d' etat charges filed against them before the Makati Regional Trial Court, prompting the court to hand down a sentence even before the trial was over.

Army Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrocampo - who are among the Magdalo's core leaders - were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years of imprisonment, and their six other companions to prision mayor or 6 to 12 years in jail.

While those sentenced to prison mayor are: Captains Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Louis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres, 1Lt. Florentino Somera, 2Lt. Kristoffer Bryan Yasay and 1Lt. Cleo Dongga.

The nine have since apologized to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for their participation in the Oakwood mutiny and requested that they be granted executive clemency. - Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV
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