Magdalo officers asks court to dismiss coup case

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Junior military officers belonging to the rebel Magdalo group have asked the Makati City Regional Trial Court to dismiss the coup d’etat charges against them.

Thirteen of the 31 accused filed yesterday a 19-page motion to dismiss before Judge Oscar Pimentel, citing among others, the exoneration by the Department of Justice of their alleged mastermind, Senator Gringo Honasan.

Speaking through their counsels Hortensio Domingo and Elaine Vicaldo Rombaoa, they argued that the charges against them and that of Honasan were identical, based on the same facts, issues, and circumstances.

“The fact that Senator Honasan, the alleged mastermind was adjudged innocent would lead to an inescapable conclusion that the alleged accused and co-conspirators are likewise innocent,” the motion stated, stressing the accused soldiers’ constitutional right to equal protection of laws.

The officers, who ranked from second lieutenant to captain in the Army, Marines, and Navy, are being tried for coup charges for leading at least 300 soldiers in a 19-hour mutiny at the Oakwood Premier Hotel in Makati, where they demanded reforms in the military and the government.

Among the accused is former naval officer and now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. The department also charged, but later cleared, Honasan for allegedly acting as the group’s mastermind.

The 13 also questioned the coup charges filed against them, noting that what they did at Oakwood was “a peaceful protest and assembly,” not an attempt to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“What was clear from the prosecution’s case is that the soldiers went to Oakwood to seek redress for their grievances and offer a solution to the citizenry. There was no evidence to establish a criminal intent to seize or diminish state power,” the motion said.

But state prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera maintained that Honasan’s exoneration neither absolved the accused nor weakened the case.

“Absolution of one leader does not mean absolution for all. We should bear in mind that they are all principals in this case,” said Navera.

He stood by earlier findings that the officers had plotted to take over the government and install a military junta and place former President Joseph Estrada as the leader.

“Our evidence against them is strong and, with or without Honasan, all of the accused are considered principals here,” he said.