Philippine military expects amnesty for rebel soldiers

The amnesty absolves 378 soldiers involved in coup attempts against ex-govt.

Manila: The Philippine military said it was confident the Senate would approve a presidential amnesty absolving 378 soldiers involved in coup attempts against the previous government.

The amnesty, signed by President Benigno Aquino in October, covers soldiers and officers who took part in three failed attempts to overthrow his graft-tainted predecessor Gloria Arroyo.

The military said in a statement it would welcome those personnel set to be reinstated under the amnesty, which the Senate has said it will try to rush through before the end of this year.

"We encourage everyone to treat these incidents in the history of the military as finally closed," the armed forces` statement said.

Aquino opted to return only the lower-ranking soldiers to their military positions, though the army has said it would prefer all 378 to be reintegrated into its ranks.

Among those to be granted amnesty is former Navy lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, who led two rebellions in 2003 and 2007 against Arroyo, whom the rebel soldiers accused of corruption.

Trillanes won a Senate seat in 2007 while campaigning from behind bars, and remains in jail while waiting for his cases to proceed through the Philippines` notoriously backlogged judicial system.

Trillanes supported Aquino in this year`s Presidential Election campaign, and would be free to vote in the Senate once he is released from jail.

Government prosecutors who had handled the cases against the mutineers earlier criticised the decision, and warned that it undermined the legal process and could encourage more military adventurism.

Aquino`s mother, the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino who led a people power uprising that toppled the 20-year regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, herself fought off a series of coup attempts.

The younger Aquino still has fragments of a bullet lodged in his neck fired by rebel soldiers who attacked the presidential palace during this time.

Bureau Report