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Top Philippines military officials recommend pardon for 2003 coup plotters

[JURIST] Several top military officials in the Philippines on Sunday called for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] to pardon the nine officers sentenced [JURIST report] this week for their role in a failed 2003 coup [BBC report]. General Hermogenes Esperon, head of the armed forces and Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro [official profiles] said they recommended pardoning the officers, stressing the importance of achieving national peace. The government has traditionally gone easy on military coup plotters and coup attempts have been relatively commonplace in Philippines history.

No shots were fired during the 2003 incident, in which 31 officers commandeered a Manila hotel, threatened to set off explosives, and held off police for 19 hours before surrendering. All nine officers changed their pleas to guilty last week, though no plea agreement had been struck with prosecutors. Two officers were given life sentences, while the other seven each received 12-year sentences. In April 2007, a Philippine military tribunal sentenced 54 military officers [JURIST report] to seven years and six months in prison for their involvement in the 2003 coup attempt. Charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] in October against four additional military officers connected to the same mutiny. Reuters has more.

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