Sat, Sep 25, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Mutinous soldiers apologize to Philippine president

AP , MANILA

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, right, salutes back at leaders of a failed mutiny as they apologized to the president and appealed for a second chance to continue serving as military officers north of Manila, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

The leaders of a failed military mutiny apologized to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday and appealed for another chance at serving the nation, but she said they would have to face trial first.

Wearing their uniforms, six of the mutiny's ringleaders stood at attention and saluted Arroyo as she walked into a Defense Department hall. Their leader, Army Captain Gerardo Gambala, then read a letter of apology to their commander in chief.

Arroyo welcomed the soldiers' statement and promised leniency to their more than 300 followers, saying they would be reinstated if they could show they had been misled. But she said the mutineers would still face court-martial proceedings.

"I feel no rancor. It is my duty as commander in chief to do what is best for peace and stability and prosperity in our country, and therefore I accept the apology that they so humbly made," Arroyo later told reporters.

Asked about pardons, she said they were possible only after their trial.

If convicted, coup leaders could face 40 years in prison and their followers up to 20 years.

The officers declared their "unequivocal commitment to peace and reconciliation" with Arroyo's administration.

They also said in the letter they overstated the extent of corruption in the military and apologized to former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, former military intelligence chief Brigadier General Victor Corpus and former national police chief Hermogenes Ebdane.

They added they were "honest though naive in their desire for change," and that succeeding events have shown the Filipino people did not agree with their action.

In a separate letter signed by Gambala and 29 other junior officers and addressed to the military leadership, the soldiers renounced their actions and appealed for a chance to rejoin the military.

A civilian fact-finding commission concluded the mutiny was part of a larger plot to seize power and appoint a 15-member junta.

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