MANILA, December 21, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - Oakwood mutineers may celebrate Christmas with families. 

President Arroyo announced yesterday a "special treat" for the junior officers that led a mutiny against her last year.

But the early Christmas gift came short of outright liberty for the detained leaders of the July 23, 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Mrs. Arroyo instructed Rear Ad. Mateo Mayuga, deputy chief of staff for personnel (J-1) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to allow the close relatives of the mutineers to spend time inside their detention barracks on Dec. 24 and 25.

The announcement was made during a luncheon hosted by Mrs. Arroyo for the parents, wives and children of the officers of the 15 junior officers.

Also present at the luncheon were Mayuga, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Carolina Hernandez, the presidential adviser tasked to implement the recommendations made by the Feliciano Commission that investigated the mutiny.

Ermita told the STAR that the parents were "very, very thankful to the President" for the reception she gave them.

Ermita was emphatic that the officers, led by Navy Lt.Sg. Antonio Trillanes IV and Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala, would not be allowed out of the camps where they are being detained.

Trillanes and Gambala are among the six officers, tagged by the military as the principal brains behind the Oakwood mutiny, who are being detained at the compound of the Intelligence Service of the AFP at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"The President instructed the J-1 to give this special treatment to the Oakwood mutineers this Dec. 24 and 25, and itís up to the respective units of the AFP where they are being detained to implement this. But they would not be allowed to get out of the camps," Ermita said.

Ermita disclosed that the parents of the officers again tried to ask Mrs. Arroyo to grant executive amnesty to the mutineers.

But Mrs. Arroyo was non-committal and chose to refer the issue to her two advisers.

Ermita said he and Hernandez told the parents that the administrationís unity and reconciliation policy was anchored on the principle of "reconciliation with justice."

"We will follow the justice system, both in civilian courts and in the military," he said. "We will let justice take its course."

Ermita ruled out an extension of the "special treatment" that would allow the mutineers to spend the New Year with their loved ones.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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