Manila, August 9, 2003 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces  - At the height of the mutiny by about 300 soldiers last July 27, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared that the country was in a state of rebellion. And the country was indeed in a state of rebellion. The worst part was that it was a rebellion started by a unit of the armed forces, the very forces entrusted to maintain peace and order with justice. Since then, the country has been in a state of apprehension, meaning anxious to know what to expect next. The President has already announced that everything is under full control and back to usual business. Most important of all is that the state of rebellion will be lifted sooner than many people think. The only reason it is not being done immediately is because the administration is still coping with "residual threats".

Alarmists have confused the declaration of a state of rebellion with a declaration of martial law. The writ of habeas corpus has not been abolished and no one can be arrested without a warrant. The real problem is that some people are refusing to face arrest and they are persons who should know better. Gregorio Honasan is an ex-army colonel and currently a senator. He should welcome the opportunity to defend himself from the accusation that he had something to do with the Magdalo report. Instead, he has made himself inaccessible by going into hiding. As a crowning insult, he has demanded that President Macapagal-Arroyo lifts her declaration of a state of rebellion as a condition for his accessibility to arrest. We don’t say that Honasan had anything to do with the coup. All we are saying is that he should surface and give his side. From a duly-elected senator to a fugitive is a very big drop in status.

Another legal impediment that has cropped up concerns the filing of charges against the July 27 mutineers. Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Paras has told a Senate hearing that the Magdalo mutineers cannot be charged with launching a coup d’etat and a court martial proceeding at the same time. That would constitute double jeopardy. It will have to be one or the other.

The most important thing is that our laws should be enforced to the letter. There should be justice for all, including the accused. But the mutineers have to face justice.

According to Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, the Magdalo mutineers would have succeeded if their plot had not been unmasked early enough. What happened is that they were left by themselves. The original plan was a power grab by a simultaneous assault in Malacañang itself, Sangley Point naval base, a television network, Makati business center and other vital targets. Their original plot was to be launched on August 2. But when it was discovered, the Magdalo mutineers prematurely launched their attack on July 27. That is the residual threat that Malacañang still has to do away with.

President Macapagal-Arroyo also said that "the resurgence of mutinies can be traced in part to a reluctance to enforce justice against military adventurism". This cannot be denied. How many coups had Gregorio Honasan launched? How come he was never arrested?

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved