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Convicted Philippine officers apologize for 2003 coup attempt

Convicted Philippine officers apologize for 2003 coup attempt

Nine Philippine military officers who were jailed for a foiled 2003 coup plot apologized to the public and government Friday and asked their comrades not to follow their example.
The most senior among them, Capt. Gerardo Gambala, read a joint statement admitting they had erred in launching a daylong mutiny in which they took over an upscale hotel and mall complex and rigged it with explosives in Manila's financial district of Makati. They later surrendered peacefully.
A court sentenced them Tuesday to prison terms of 12 to 40 years.
"We undoubtedly made a mistake," Gambala told reporters. "We apologize to the people. We ask for your forgiveness for our rebellion."
Gambala and fellow Capt. Milo Maestrecampo were sentenced to 40 years and the others to 12 years.
Gambala and Maestrecampo were among four identified ringleaders who had already apologized to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo months after the coup attempt.
It was one of Arroyo's most serious challenges since she took power in a 2001 "people power" uprising that ousted her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, on charges of corruption.
Arroyo has survived four attempted power grabs and three opposition impeachment attempts during her seven years in power.
Gambala denied that the apology and the officers' guilty pleas were made in exchange for leniency, but said they will apply for a presidential pardon and would accept it if offered.
Arroyo has used pardons to reach out to her adversaries, including Estrada. Her administration is eager to placate the country's 120,000-member military after complaints of corruption and favoritism in the government triggered several coup rumors, particularly among junior officers.
Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the convicted officers have to go through a legal process before being granted any pardon.
"We cannot sacrifice justice just because they suddenly said 'sorry,'" he said.
The nine men were part of a group of 31 junior officers accused of leading the mutiny on July 27, 2003. It involved about 300 troops from elite special forces units of the army, navy, marines and air force who took over the Oakwood Hotel and an adjacent mall.
In their joint statement, they asked their fellow officers "not to emulate our actions at Oakwood. For no matter how noble our intentions were, what we did can never be justified."
Other officers in the group, led by former navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV and marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, who has escaped from detention, have remained defiant and criticized their comrades for expressing support for Arroyo.
Trillanes ran successfully for the Senate in 2007 but remains in detention pending the outcome of his trial.
In November, Trillanes and several others walked out of their trial and seized another upscale hotel. They gave up seven hours later after government forces drove an armored vehicle into the hotel lobby and fired tear gas and warning shots.


Updated : 2021-10-17 04:58 GMT+08:00