MANILA, May 12, 2008 (STAR) (AP) - President Arroyo pardoned nine military officers who apologized after being convicted of a 2003 coup plot, saying Monday that the country yearns for stability - not "political shenanigans."

Mrs. Arroyo made the announcement during a nationally televised ceremony marking the oath-taking of new military chief Gen. Alexander Yano. He replaced a general known for fiercely defending Arroyo against coup plotters and other threats.

The government has struggled in recent years to head off unrest in the 120,000-strong military by fighting corruption, introducing reforms and modernizing equipment as it battles communist and Muslim rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants. The underfunded military is one of Asia's weakest.

GMA approves pardon for nine Magdalo soldiers Monday, May 12, 2008 12:43 PM

President Arroyo has approved the pardon of nine Magdalo soldiers who were earlier sentenced for their participation in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.

Mrs. Arroyo made the announcement during the turnover ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo for newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano.

Yano replaces Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

On April 11, the nine soldiers led by Army Captain Gerardo Gambala appealed for presidential pardon.

Gambala, along with Captain Milo Maestrecampo, were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years imprisonment.

The other soldiers pardoned were Army Captains Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Louis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres, 1Lt. Florentino Somera, 2Lt. Kristoffer Bryan Yasay and 1Lt. Cleo Dongga.-- Alexa Villano

Fugitive Magdalo hits GMA on Esperon retirement Monday, May 12, 2008 04:43 PM

 Fugitive Magdalo Group leader Captain Nicanor Feldon accused President Arroyo of making guard dogs out of military generals like Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr, who has retired from the service.

In a handwritten statement coursed through his lawyer Trixie Angeles, the Oakwood mutineer who also joined the November 2007 Manila Peninsula siege, said Malacanang “corrupted a once worthy officer.”

“Today, the last of your Garci generals retires from the military. Keep him close for he is rare among us in uniform: an officer willing to prostitute his own institution just to keep you, a fake president, in power,” Faeldon, in a message to Mrs. Arroyo, said.

Faeldon said the honors and awards that mrs. Arroyo is giving Esperon “may seem to prove that lying and stonewalling make for a rewarding career.”

“It certainly proves that General Esperon was right when he told us, as he continues to tell young officers now, to always think of your careers first,” he said.

“You and your lap dogs have tried to dismiss us by describing us as ‘misguided’ officers with messianic complexes, while at the same time accusing us of being guided by self-interest. But the years have proven us right: seven years into your presidency, instead you perfected lying into an art and forced us to live with your lies. Worse, you have corrupted institutions and those who serve and head these institutions,” he added.

Faeldon, one of the core leaders of the Magdalo Group charged with coup d’ etat before the Makati City regional trial court (RTC) escaped military custody after participating in last year’s Manila Peninsula incident wherein Oakwood mutineers against staged an alleged uprising against the Arroyo administration.--Michael Punongbayan

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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