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MANILA, NOVEMBER 22, 2006 (STAR) By Christina Mendez -

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. urged yesterday
Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon to reconsider his
order to court-martial several senior military officers accused of
involvement in a failed coup last Feb. 24.

"It is a sign of a military mind in action, meaning to say it is very
authoritarian in its decision-making so that no matter what a duly
constituted review panel has found out in the matter of investigating
General Miranda, et al, (it) is no deterrent to a predetermined
course of action by the AFP chief-of-staff," he said.

Pimentel said Esperon’s disregard of the Judge Advocate General’s
Office’s (JAGO) recommendation to dismiss the charges against
the military officers led by former Marine commandant
Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda would create the impression that
they are being persecuted.

Esperon’s action will "stoke the fires of discontent" in the military
ranks, he added.

This "kind of authoritarianism" being applied in handling the case
against the alleged mutineers "is not good for the rule of law," Pimentel

Within five days the special general court martial will be ready
to try the 30 Scout Ranger and Marine officers headed by Miranda
and former Army Scout Rangers chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.

Speaking before attending a forum of the Philippine Constitution
Association at the Manila Hotel, Esperon said yesterday he is firm in his
decision to court-martial Miranda, his Philippine Military Academy
classmate, and Lim, one of his trusted officers.

"It’s my prerogative," he said in response to questions whether he
overruled the recommendation of the AFP’s Pre-Trial Investigation panel to
dismiss the coup d’etat charges against the accused military officers.

"In fact, I’m looking at five days from now (when) we will probably be
convening already the general court-martial."

Esperon said he was just awaiting the recommendation from the AFP deputy
chief of staff, who would choose the senior officers that would sit in the
five-member court martial.

Esperon said upon review of the findings of a JAGO pre-trial
investigation (PTI) panel headed by Col. Al Perreras, referred the matter
to his staff judge advocate, Col. Pedro Herrera Davila for further study
and for legal advise.

"If I have indeed not approved all of their recommendations, that is my
prerogative as the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,"
he said.

Esperon did not say if the JAGO report to him recommended the dropping
of mutiny charges against the accused military officers.

"I will not tell you the contents," he said.

"Suffice it to say that they are my references, whatever are their
contents, they served as my references in arriving at my decisions.

"I must tell you that the PTI report is a signed report, and there is
only one copy of that original report, it is with me and I have turned
that over to the Judge Advocate General so anything that you see in the
Internet is not the PTI report."

As he ordered court-martial for 30 officers, Esperon absolved eight
others and ordered them released from detention and reinstated to full
duty status.

One of the eight officers whom Esperon absolved was Maj. Oriel Pangcog,
who was among the 18 military officers recommended by the Perreras report
to stand trial for violation of Articles of War No. 96.

Asked about Pangcog’s case, Esperon said: "As I said, the PTI report and
the PTA are my basis for arriving at my decisions. I do not have to abide
by the PTI report and by the PTA, they are my basis, I could refer to them
as my basis for my decisions."

Shortly after Esperon announced on Monday morning that 30 officers would
face court martial, an unsigned Perreras report was posted in the

In that version, military investigators recommended the dropping of the
charges against Miranda and other accused military officers now facing
court martial for insufficiency of evidence.

Aside from Miranda, Lim, and Querubin, the other military officers
ordered court-martialed were Marine Colonels Orlando de Leon, Januario
Caringal and Armando Banez; Lieutenant Colonels Valentin Hizon, Parcon,
Romulo Gualdrap, Segumailan; Maj. Franciso Domingo Fernandez; and 1Lt.
Belinda Ferrer, Miranda’s aide de camp. — With Jaime Laude, Delon Porcalla

Sigaw claims sweet victory - By Perseus Echeminada And Cecille Suerte
Felipe The Philippine Star 11/22/2006

Despite the defeat of its Charter change petition at the Supreme Court,
advocacy group Sigaw ng Bayan claimed "sweet victory" yesterday, saying
the SC also upheld the sufficiency of Republic Act 6735 for amending the

Sigaw spokesman Raul Lambino said the SC ruling on their petition
turning down their motion for reconsideration with finality had achieved
their primary goal of reversing the 1997 SC ruling on the same issues.

Lambino explained the 1997 ruling involving Sen. Miriam Defensor
Santiago and the Commission on Elections tackled the adequacy of RA 6735,
or the Initiative and Referendum Act.

He said yesterday’s ruling by the High Court settled the issue of
adequacy of RA 6735 to cover the system of people’s initiative to amend
the Constitution.

The High Court had dismissed the signature gathering campaign launched
by People’s Initiative through Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma),
declaring it illegal in the absence of an enabling law from Congress.

The High Court had stated RA 6735 is inadequate to govern the people’s
initiative petition.

"That was the essence of our petition that the High Court revisit the
Santiago ruling, we claim sweet victory," Lambino said.

Lambino claimed the separate 10-5 voting of the Supreme Court upholding
the adequacy of RA 6735 practically reversed the 1997 ruling, which
declared the people’s initiative illegal.

"With the ruling the injunction against people’s initiative has been
lifted, and anytime we can again gather signatures all over the country,"
Lambino said.

Lambino admitted though the lack of time because of the preparations for
next year’s midterm elections.

He said the 6.3 signatures they have gathered will no longer be used for
the same purpose.

Lambino also admitted "technical lapses" on their part in presenting
their case before the high tribunal.

The SC has ruled the people’s initiative, as governed by RA 6735, would
be allowed only to introduce amendments to the Constitution, not revisions
like proposals to change the type of government from the presidential
system to parliamentary.

Lambino said the SC ruling would now redirect their action to support
the constituent assembly (con-ass) move being initiated at the House of
Representatives to amend the Charter.

He said that if the con-ass move will not prosper and the new set of
elected officials will not initiate any move to amend the Constitution,
Sigaw will again embark on another nationwide campaign to gather
signatures to initiate Charter change.

"The fight for Charter is not over, we will resurface and pursue our
political objectives if a new set of lawmakers will not initiate moves to
amend the 1987 Constitution," Lambino declared.

Plan B activated

Malacañang said the SC decision to junk with finality the people’s
initiative joint petition by Sigaw and Union of Local Authorities of the
Philippines (ULAP) is not the end of the road for efforts to amend the

"This is probably all that administration allies in Congress are waiting
for so that they can now go all out for constituent assembly,"
Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio said.

"The final Supreme Court decision formally activates the con-ass mode of
changing the Constitution," he said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Malacañang "respects the Supreme
Court decision on people’s initiative" but "it will not stop us, however,
from our advocacy that we need fundamental reform in order to remove the
remaining stumbling block towards our competitiveness."

Bunye said Charter change efforts "has a life of its own."

"And in the end the people will have to make the decision.

We still believe it is the most important reform we have to make," he

For his part, Solicitor General Eduardo Antonio Nachura welcomed the
fact that 10 justices upheld the adequacy of RA 6735.

Nachura agreed with the observation by Charter change advocates that
yesterday’s SC ruling effectively reversed the 1997 ruling.

"Now the prospects for people’s initiative are more open," Nachura said.

Nachura explained the petition of Sigaw and ULAP was dismissed, not
because of the 1997 ruling, but on their failure to comply with the basic
legal requirements for the people’s initiative petition to succeed.

He said Justice Antonio Carpio, the author of the SC ruling, was very
emphatic on the need to have "a true people’s initiative," which means the
drive to introduce amendments to the Constitution should emanate from the
people themselves and not from a group representing them.

"These are the implications of the decision and in that sense, I am
happy," Nachura said.

Getting the act together

Sen. Joker Arroyo, for his part, called on administration allies at the
House to get its act together on efforts to push for the constituent

"It would be for the good of all that the House should act with
dispatch, one way or the other, with its move for a constituent assembly,"
Arroyo said.

"The House cannot yo-yo this case indefinitely, nor dodge this all the
time, or be divided endlessly. This is not fair to the people. It’s time
for the House leadership to bite the bullet and act, like the Supreme
Court, with finality," he added.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, however, called on Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. and
administration allies to put Charter change initiatives to rest to bring
about some degree of stability in the political scene.

Drilon said Charter change advocates should redirect their efforts and
start preparing for the May 2007 elections.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. and Senate Majority Leader Francis
Pangilinan said discussions on Charter change should to take place after
the May elections.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Charter change advocates should prepare for the
reality that their efforts had been defeated.

"They should now prepare for the sad reality of the forthcoming May
elections because they will face a debacle, they’ll face a defeat in the
May 2007 elections. They should all prepare for that," he said.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II said the administration should now focus its
efforts from a lost cause of Charter change initiatives and focus on the
basic concerns of the people.

"I urge the administration and its allies to abandon the lost cause of a
hasty cha-cha in favor of a visionary agenda of meaningful and economic
reforms," he added.

Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod, representing One Voice, the
group that primarily opposed the petition of ULAP and Sigaw, said the
government should now address the real concerns of the people instead of
focusing on Charter change initiatives.

But local officials like Manila Mayor Lito Atienza said the efforts will
still continue in Congress.

Following the SC decision, Atienza said the efforts to amend the
Constitution has shifted on the shoulders of lawmakers. -With Aurea
Calica, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan

*** Starting December, News articles will be posted on a monthly basis. thank you


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