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Except for Trillanes, 10 Magdalo soldiers freed

ARMED Forces Chief Delfin Bangit approved the release of 10 Magdalo soldiers after the court decided that their  sentence of eight months’ imprisonment was considered served since they have been in detention since the November 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

Former Marine Capt. Gary Alejano and former Ltsg  James Layug were released Sunday and eight others are expected to be freed on Monday after they posted their bail with the Makati Regional Trial Court.

The eight  are former  Lts. (sg) Eugene Gonzales, Andy Torrato, Manuel Cabochan; Capt Dan Orfiano; Lt. (jg) Arturo Pascua; and 1Lts. Billy Pascua, Jonnel Sangalang and Armand Pontejos.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV will remain in detention as he has not been allowed to post bail in the coup d’etat case in connection with the July 2003 Oakwood incident.

Immediately after his release, Layug, who is running for congressman in the second district of Taguig, went to attend mass with his family in Baclaran church. He said, “It (the release) came as a surprise. We have been used to expecting for the worse.”

Layug said it is good to know that Bangit respected the independence of the military court and did not disapprove the decision. He said the message they received from Bangit was “Move on.”

Alejano will be going home to Sipalay, where he is running for mayor.

Last April 7, the 10 entered a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to charges of violation of Articles of War 63 (disrespect to the President), 96 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman), 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) and 70 (escape from confinement). The charge of mutiny was dropped.

They were sentenced to eight months in prison. Since they have been in detention for almost eight years (two since the 2007 Manila Pen incident) , the court considered the sentence served.

Much earlier, in February , Makati Judge Elmo Alameda granted the petition for bail of those involved in the Manila Pen standoff, saying it was not rebellion but simply contempt of court. He set a P200,000 bail for each of the accused.

The military, however said, they could not be released while there was a pending case in the military court. That was resolved last April 7.

On Nov. 29, 2007, at the height of the NBN/ZTE scandal, the Magdalo officers led by IV and Brig. Gen. Danny Lim, who was supposed to be on the witness stand, walked out of the Makati regional trial court hearing on the  Oakwood coup d’etat and proceeded to the Manila Peninsula where they declared a withdrawal of support from Gloria Arroyo.

The  siege ended after government rammed an armored tank into the Manila Pen lobby.