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MANILA, Philippines – Two former Philippine soldiers who took part in a failed coup in 2003 were sentenced on Friday, March 22, to long prison terms, officials said, after both spurned President Benigno Aquino III’s offer of pardon.
Ex-army first lieutenants Lawrence San Juan and Rex Bolo were found guilty of the crime of coup d’etat and both ordered to serve a maximum of 12 years in jail, court official Maria Rhodora Peralta told AFP.
“The judge found them guilty as participants of the coup, not as coup leaders,” she said.
The duo were among several hundred mutineers who seized a hotel in Manila’s financial district in 2003 in a failed bid by a group of junior officers to force Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Arroyo to resign over alleged corruption.
Arroyo crushed the revolt, the first of 3 mounted against her during the nearly 10 years she spent in power, and later pardoned some of the participants.
She is now detained at a military hospital while on trial for allegedly plundering $8.8 million from state lottery funds during her years in office from 2001 to 2010.
Aquino, who came to power in 2010 after promising to fight corruption, granted amnesty that same year to all officers and soldiers who had risen up against Arroyo.
However San Juan and Bolo, on trial at the time, both rejected the new president’s offer and chose to have their names cleared through the civilian court, military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos told AFP.
“They were both offered (amnesty), but they refused it,” Burgos said, adding that they were the only two to reject the pardon.
Both men had been expelled from military service, like the officers who joined the revolts and later accepted the amnesty offer, said Burgos.
San Juan and Bola are currently out on bail, said Peralta, the court official.
Regional trial court judge Andres Soriano also ruled that both men may re-apply for bail if they planned to appeal the verdict, Peralta added.
Among those pardoned and freed from prison during Aquino’s amnesty was former naval officer Antonio Trillanes IV, who had won a seat in the Senate in 2007 while campaigning from his military prison cell.
Senator Trillanes is now a close political ally of the President. – Rappler.com