MANILA,  September 27, 2004
Malacañang has offered legal assistance to junior military officers who took part in last year’s failed military uprising against President Arroyo if their lawyers decide to stop representing them in court.

"We have provisions on providing legal assistance," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said over Radio Mindanao Network yesterday.

"I believe the government is ready to provide the legal assistance of the Magdalo soldiers."

Former assemblyman Homobono Adaza, one of the soldiers’ lawyers, said he would withdraw as their counsel because he felt he was "taken for a ride" after the rebel military officers apologized to Mrs. Arroyo on nationwide television.

The soldiers had "betrayed their convictions and principles" when they made the apology to Mrs. Arroyo, he added.

He and another lawyer, Roel Pulido, were not consulted by their client when they decided to take action, Adaza said.

The rebel military officers — Army Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo; Navy Lieutenants Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV and James Layug; and Marine Captains Gary Alejano and Nicanor Faeldon — issued a statement read out by Gambala before Mrs. Arroyo on Friday in which they apologized to her and appealed for another chance to serve the nation.

In accepting the apology of the military rebels, Mrs. Arroyo said she cannot grant them pardon until and after they have been convicted by a civilian and a military court.

When they revolted last year, the junior military officers demanded that Mrs. Arroyo be ousted because of her alleged corruption and mismanagement of the government.

Last Saturday, Malacañang squelched suspicions that Mrs. Arroyo entered into a "secret agreement" with the jailed leaders of the Magdalo group of rebel military officers in exchange for their being reinstated to active duty.

Bunye said the act of apology by the six officers and their readiness to accept the full consequences of their acts paved the way for the first step of the "principled unity and reconciliation" that Mrs. Arroyo had offered to enemies of the State.

"Their action (of apology) meets the prerequisite of a just and principled reconciliation, namely — admission of a wrongdoing, restitution or at least an offer of restitution and a promise not to repeat a wrong," he said.

"It takes courage to admit one’s fault. We hope this spirit of self-abnegation can be bolstered by a display of statesmanship at the higher levels of leadership in our society."

Bunye said the Magdalo officers, whom he described as a "picture of contrition" and no longer defiant, made it clear that their action was of their own volition.

"Nobody ordered them (to do so)," he said.

"We believe that they did not consult their lawyers about this thing. What our President promised –as far as their followers in the Oakwood mutiny is concerned, (is that) leniency would be applied to them."

Bunye was among the few Cabinet officials who joined Mrs. Arroyo at the Department of Defense in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, where the six officers read a statement owning responsibility for the failed mutiny at the Oakwood Premier in Ayala Center, Makati last year.

Their meeting with the President came more than a year after they led some 300 men in seizing the posh apartment building on July 27, 2003.

The mutineers who called themselves the "Magdalo faction" demanded the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo and other government officials in alleging high-level corruption.

The bloodless rebellion ended less than 24 hours later when they failed to rally support from the Armed Forces. — Marvin Sy

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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