(Is there a) Deal or no deal?

Is there a deal or no deal?

Nine former Magdalo soldiers (all of them Philippine Army) recently pleaded guilty to charges of coup d’ etat, and they were handed down prison sentences from 9-40 years. The actions by Gambala and Maestrocampo surprised some people, and some speculated that a deal must have been made between the Arroyo regime and the nine.

The regime isn’t helping in quelching these speculation. Hermogenes Esperon’s reaction to the court sentence was to tell the nine to accept it. He then floated the pardon trial balloon, while members of the House of Representatives play good cop/bad cop.

And then the convicted former Magdalo soldiers asked for pardon days after their conviction; they even said sorry. A Fortress executive says that they will not granted pardon immediately; maybe a month or so?. Anyway, even Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno wants them pardoned. A few days later, the regime is seriously thinking the effects of granting pardon. And finally, the Department of National Defense and the AFP recommended that the nine be pardoned.

Given the regime’s action regarding Joseph Estrada, do you think granting pardon to nine former Magdalo soldiers is remote? Given the Arroyo regime’s actions and words for the past few days, it is not remote. I believe there is a deal, and we’ll know for sure in a few months. The best indication that there is a deal can be best glanced from one of the motives by the nine to do an about-face: they wanted to be with their families. If there is no deal, they won’t be doing an about-face. They were promised a pardon so that they could be with their families.

My only hope now is that history will not repeat itself. During the negotiations between Roy Cimatu (representing the regime) and the Magdalos on July 27, 2003 (to end the Oakwood mutiny), the agreement was for the Magdalos to return to barracks and surrender under the Articles of War. Ramon Farolan wrote about the recollections of former columnist Max Soliven regarding the Oakwood mutiny (he was present in the negotiations). Let me quote Soliven:

What bothers me is that the mutineers or rebels whatever may be tagged on them, are being double-crossed. Nobody intends to glorify them as heroes or justify their deed, certainly not this writer. But since I was in there with the negotiating group, I’ll have to speak out about what was agreed…

Being charged in civilian court was rejected by the mutineers. They surrendered themselves to military justice, under the Articles of War—in sum, court martial…

Military justice is what they were unanimously pledged by the government panelists—not prosecution in the regular justice system. Otherwise, they might not have surrendered. And you know the consequences of a firefight and the detonation of the explosives they had planted all over the place.

Was anything written down? A surrender agreement? Of course not. But we must consider that an individual’s ‘word of honor’ is supposed to be as binding as a piece of paper. Palabra de honor was what was invoked in the end. Gen. Cimatu pledged himself as an officer and a gentleman, and so did the rest of the government panel …

Are rebels, putschists or mutineers ‘scum,’ not worthy of being given such pledges? Nonsense. Word of honor binds those who give them, not the accused or the imprisoned. Cimatu and the government officers and officials involved should honor this deal.

Why is it so important for the President and her government to honor this commitment? Because if it is not upheld, who knows, what real trouble will be provoked among the far bigger number of men ‘outside’ who did not participate in the so-called coup or mutiny? I kid thee not, they are there, waiting to see whether reforms are instituted and whether heads upstairs will roll …

The Chief Executive and Commander in Chief must at least show sincerity under what was stipulated in the final agreement, the Articles of War. What about Lina’s filing of cases? Perhaps, this even falls under double jeopardy, not just a double cross.

I repeat: the Oakwood Five leaders asked for leniency for their men and even full reinstatement for their followers ‘without hitches.’ This was not conceded in the final public announcement. But the deal on the Articles of War was clearly and unequivocally announced to the media and the general public …

– Max Soliven, August 4, 2003

I hope they will not be twice betrayed.

Ellen Tordesillas called the nine’s actions as pathetic. As much as I agree with her points, I cannot begrudge the nine if they were willing to support this regime and eat their words just to be with their families. But this point by Ms. Tordesillas will haunt them forever:

Since with his appeal for presidential pardon, he is willing to support a liar, a cheat, and a thief, I’m wondering what is Gambala going to teach his son about truth and honesty.

I’d like to share with him something from the book, “The Kite Runner”. The narrator in the book, Am, tells about the time when he was a boy, the mullahs in Afghanistan said drinking alcohol is a terrible sin. He relayed the lesson to his father, who drinks.

The father made him sit on his lap for serious talk: “No matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft.”

The father continued: “When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

What will Gambala and the eight other officers tell their children about Gloria Arroyo?