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Arroyo approves pardon for 9 convicted Magdalo soldiers

(Updated 3:07 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Monday granted pardon to nine Magdalo soldiers who earlier pleaded guilty to charges of coup d' etat in connection with the short-lived July 2003 Oakwood mutiny. Those pardoned were Army Captains Gerardo Gambala, Milo Maestrecampo, Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Louis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres together with 1Lt. Florentino Somera, 2Lt. Kristoffer Bryan Yasay and 1Lt. Cleo Dongga. At the turnover ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo, President Arroyo said she has approved the recommendation of retiring Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon for the granting of pardon to the nine Army junior officers. "As commander in last approval (during Esperon's time) is to approve his recommendation for the Magdalo soldiers," Mrs Arroyo said. President Arroyo is the commander in chief of the military and police. Also in her speech, Mrs Arroyo gave strong hints that Esperon would be given a government post. "Have a well deserved vacation, Jun. Hurry back to serve the people again." Esperon will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, the outgoing commander of the Philippine Army. For his part, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the President has signed the pardon order, which was forwarded to her Friday. Ermita said the other faction of the Magdalo, which continues to defy the Arroyo administration, "can use their better reason to help them out of their situation." On April 11, Gambala spoke on behalf of the nine Magdalo officers, appealing for presidential pardon after a court convicted them on charges of coup d' etat. "We know in our hearts that we are guilty and we accept the verdict of the court. We undoubtedly made a mistake. We apologize to the people... We ask for forgiveness for our rebellion," Gambala said during a press conference at the Army headquarters that day. "I am applying for pardon... We are applying for pardon. What I can do is ask for mercy from (the) authorities and God. The verdict is hard but we have to accept it... If they will give me pardon, I will accept it," he said. On April 8, the Makati Regional Trial Court sentenced Gambala and Maestrecampo to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years imprisonment. On the other hand, Ebreo, Laurence Louis Somera, Baloloy, Andres, 1Lt. Florentino Somera, Yasay and Dongga were sentenced to prision mayor or six to 12 years in jail. The court verdict came a week after they entered a guilty plea, changing their original "not guilty" plea when they were first arraigned for the crime of coup d' etat. - GMANews.TV