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Update on the AFP Military Rebels

by Pesante-USA/AJLPP Saturday, Jul. 29, 2006 at 5:34 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

For the people’s democratic forces, it is just plain killings, disappearances or torture in jail. For military rebels, it’s a different kind of torture. News sources revealed today that the combination of “solitary confinement, intrigues, unsolicited acts of kindness, and even continuous blaring of [heavy] metal music” has taken a toll on the detained Magdalo rebel soldiers, according to the former legal counsel of one of them.

Update on the AFP Military Rebels

For the people’s democratic forces, it is just plain killings, disappearances or torture in jail.

For military rebels, it’s a different kind of torture. News sources revealed today that the combination of “solitary confinement, intrigues, unsolicited acts of kindness, and even continuous blaring of [heavy] metal music” has taken a toll on the detained Magdalo rebel soldiers, according to the former legal counsel of one of them.

While some slept soundly even with the loud music, “some have been weakened, [and] we cannot blame them,” lawyer Roel Pulido said in explaining the current state of mind of the young officers who seized the Oakwood apartment hotel in Makati on July 27, 2003, and demanded the resignation of President Macapagal-Arroyo.

At the time, the rebel soldiers numbering over 300 were led by a band of closely knit officers—Captains Gerry Gambala and Miles Maestrecampo (both from the Army), Captains Gary Alejano and Nick Faeldon (Marines) and Lieutenants Antonio Trillanes and James Layug (Navy)—who appeared united in their goal of reforming the military and the government.

Three years after what has come to be known as the Oakwood mutiny, the Magdalo group is split into two, with the Navy and Marine faction apparently taking the hard line against the Army faction that signed a manifesto last October professing allegiance to Ms Arroyo.

But even the Army group has also splintered, as a result of the “intrigues” sown by the members’ jailors, Pulido said.

Bumidang’s TV appearance

According to the military rebels former lawyer Roel Pulido, for three days following their capture last July 7 in Filinvest, Quezon City, Capt. Nathaniel Rabonza, 1st Lt. Patricio Bumidang Jr. (his former client), 1st Lt. Sonny Sarmiento, 1st Lt. Angelbert Gay, Ltjg. Kiram Sadava and 2nd Lt. Aldrin Baldonado were bombarded with heavy metal music that was piped into their cells even at night.

At one point, Pulido said, Bumidang was taken from his cell and brought back days later. During Bumidang’s absence, an officer dropped in and casually told the other detainees that Bumidang had “appeared on TV.”

Another officer dropped in for a chat with the detainees, and also casually offered a cell phone to anyone who wanted to call his mother or wife.

“Lieutenant Bumidang did not say a word on TV but a seed of doubt was planted in the minds of his colleagues when they were told that he had appeared before the media,” Pulido said.

According to the lawyer, the experience may have also affected Bumidang, who, for several days after being returned to his cell, refused to touch his prison rations or even respond to greetings from fellow detainees.

The strained relationship was mended last week when Bumidang started talking again with the other detainees, Pulido said.

He said it was also last week that Bumidang dropped him as legal counsel.

Individual cells

Per Pulido’s account, the six officers arrested in Filinvest are being held at the Army’s maximum detention facility in Fort Bonifacio, in a row of concrete individual cells measuring about 2.5 meters by 6 meters.

(Until they were moved to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, two weeks ago, Captains Jason Aquino and Dante Langkit—who have both been linked to the purported coup plot last Feb. 24—also had their individual cells at the same detention facility.)

Each cell has a bed, a latrine, a small window, and a metal door over a second door made of iron bars, Pulido said, quoting the detainees.

“They said they could talk to each other and could hear whenever doors were opened or food was brought in. But they said they could not see each other,” he said.

Pulido said the detainees were blindfolded whenever they were taken from their cells and brought to the reception rooms to meet visiting relatives.

He said they had no access to TV, radio, newspapers, or even a phone.

‘Worse than Marcos years’

Rabonza’s lawyer, former Sen. Rene Saguisag, said the detainees were being deprived of even an hour of sunning.

“That explains why Rabonza is so pale,” Saguisag told the Inquirer. “They are kept incommunicado in the bartolina. This is worse than the Marcos years.”

Signs of strain brought about by solitary confinement have also been observed in 1st Lt. Laurence San Juan, who, along with Rabonza, Sarmiento and Bumidang, escaped his military custodians last Jan. 17.

When recaptured on Feb. 21 in Batangas, San Juan was thrown into solitary confinement in the same dungeon-like cell.

He was released from isolation last March 14, on the order of Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court.

“They are trained not to crack under pressure. I think there is just too much pressure on them and their families,” said Celso Cainglet, an instructor in military ethics and philosophy at the Philippine Military Academy in 1991-95.

Trillanes, Gambala, Alejano, Maestrecampo, Layug, Rabonza, Langkit, San Juan, Bumidang and Sarmiento are Cainglet’s former students.

‘Ruptured’ friendship

Last July 14, San Juan publicly renounced his links with the Magdalo group and even named its purported “coddlers.”

He said Maestrecampo arranged his first meeting with then Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan in Zamboanga City in 2001.An Inquirer source said Maestrecampo was disappointed with the turnaround, and later said his friendship with San Juan had “ruptured.”

“I feel responsible for him. I am not shying away from that responsibility, but I am not responsible for his actions,” Maestrecampo reportedly said.

Trillanes, acknowledged as the “leader” of the Magdalo group, gave San Juan the cold shoulder last Wednesday at the Makati RTC, where they are being tried for the crime of coup d’etat.

According to another source, who asked not to be named for lack of authorization to speak with reporters, San Juan asked Trillanes for permission to escape last January. Trillanes ruled out the plan, citing Faeldon’s escape on Dec. 14 that resulted in “more difficulties” for those in detention.

Trillanes reportedly attributed San Juan’s turnaround to his “flawed sense of the struggle.”

“When he escaped and became the symbol of defiance, San Juan thought the struggle began and ended with him. When he was captured, he felt there was no more reason for the struggle,” the source said, quoting Trillanes.

Other ‘differences’

But it appears that Trillanes has also had to grapple with his “differences” with Gambala and Maestrecampo, who also made their “turnaround” in October.

To illustrate the split, Gambala and Maestrecampo were not invited to the christening of Layug’s firstborn last December.

The reception was held at the multipurpose hall of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, where Layug was then detained along with Trillanes, Faeldon and Alejano.

Gambala, who married his longtime girlfriend last June, returned the snub by not inviting Layug et al. to his wedding


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