FORMER RAM BOY NAMED MUTINY PROBER

MUTINY PROBE PANEL

[PHOTO: CHIEF PROBER: President Arroyo congratulates retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano after swearing him in as head of the special commission that will look into the roots of last Sunday’s mutiny in Makati. Among the other members of the commission is a former reformist soldier who was himself a participant in previous coup attempts. - REVOLI CORTEZ]

Manila, July 31, 2003  (Star) A former military rebel leader was named yesterday to the independent fact-finding commission that will look into last Sunday’s failed mutiny of junior military officers.

Navy Commodore Rex Robles, along with Sen. Gregorio Honasan, was a leader of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), a group of young military officers who led the 1986 coup that eventually ousted President Ferdinand Marcos.

RAM also spearheaded a series of failed but bloody military uprisings against President Corazon Aquino, which almost overthrew the government in 1989, had US fighter jets not bombed the rebel air base in Sangley Point in Cavite.

Mrs. Arroyo yesterday also appointed to the commission Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a STAR columnist and member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission; and Army Capt. Rex Banjo-Bumanlad, a representative of Philippine Military Academy Class 1995 whose members are the core leaders of the aborted mutiny.

Mrs. Arroyo increased from three to six the members of the fact-finding commission through Administrative Order 78, which she signed yesterday.

The President had earlier named as members of the commission retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano, chairman; retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Minerva Gonzales-Reyes; and political science professor Carolina Hernandez.

Mrs. Arroyo has welcomed the "parallel congressional inquiry" to be conducted separately by the Senate and House of Representatives to shed light on the cause of the uprising.

Mrs. Arroyo empowered the commission to summon witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony or evidence relevant to the investigation and to issue compulsory processes to produce documents, books, records and other matters in the performance of its functions.

The commission was also empowered to deputize the military, police and other law enforcement agencies to assist it.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina Jr., along with two top Armed Forces officials, were summoned to appear before a Senate investigation tomorrow to testify on the grievances of mutinous junior military officers.

"We intend to get to the bottom of the soldiers’ grievances," Senate President Franklin Drilon told reporters yesterday. "Definitely, this will be an independent and non-partisan investigation." — Marichu Villanueva, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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