Fugitive army officers warn Arroyo

Four fugitive army officers officers in the Philippines yesterday warned that there was a growing force in the military working to remove the "bogus regime" of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and "usher a new nation."

By Guil Franco

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Published: Fri 20 Jan 2006, 12:48 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:33 PM

The four army officers, who escaped from detention on Tuesday, were among more than 100 soldiers being tried for leading or taking part in a failed mutiny against Arroyo in July 2003.­

"We have bolted from the repression of a bogus regime," they said in a joint statement. "We will no longer go along with the repression that this regime has to impose in order to continue its illegitimate rule."

"The people's mandate is clear: corruption, illegitimacy and neglect must end," added the statement issued by Captain Nathaniel Rabonza, First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Patricio Bumidang and Sonny Sarmiento.­

The officers said they were not merely seeking "a change in personalities" but also a "change of a system that installs the people's enemies in power and perpetuates the exclusion of the majority."

"We are not alone in this struggle," they said. "Most of the armed forces are one with us in our vision. We are a force that grows stronger by the day, working in solidarity to usher a new nation where the people's interests are truly supreme."

Arroyo has been fighting calls for her resignation or ouster since last June due to allegations she cheated in the May 2004 presidential elections.­

While the president has denied any wrong-doing and survived an impeachment bid in September 2005, her opponents have vowed to continue efforts to remove her from office and expose irregularities in her administration.­

The escape of the four officers came one month after one of the leaders of the failed mutiny, Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, slipped past his security escorts during a court hearing. He has since launched a civil disobedience campaign against Arroyo.­

According to one of the lawyers of the army officers, fellow soldiers helped the four escape from the Philippine army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.­

"Someone from the inside helped them," said lawyer Ruel Pulido, quoting Bumidang who called him before dawn on Thursday. "Brother officers helped them upon learning that there is something bad that will happen to them."

Pulido said Bumidang said they were already "far away."

Army Inspector General Major General Ferdinand Bocobo, head of a special committee investigating the escape, said authorities were still verifying the fugitives' claim that they were helped by fellow soldiers.

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