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Thursday, January 19, 2006


4 Magdaló officers escape from camp

By Anthony Vargas, Reporter 

Four junior army officers who took part in a short-lived mutiny in 2003 escaped from detention inside Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Makati City, Tuesday night.  

The military and police went on security alert and announced a massive manhunt for Capt. Nathaniel Rabonza and 1st Lieutenants Sony Sarmiento, Patricio Bumindang and Lawrence San Juan.

The camp’s commander, Brig. Gen. Ruben Rafael, was sacked after the jailbreak and replaced by his deputy, Col. Romeo Fajardo.

The escape came a month after another mutineer, Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, slipped from his escorts after a court hearing.

Faeldon and the four who escaped Tuesday were among several junior officers who led some 300 men in taking over Makati’s Oakwood Premier apartment services, which houses diplomats, more than two years ago. The group called themselves the Magdaló.

They accused the military top brass of corruption and President Arroyo of abetting it. They called on her to step down so a junta could rule in her place.

Their mutiny was crushed and the ringleaders jailed to face rebellion charges in civil and military courts. Mrs. Arroyo, however, subsequently freed the enlisted men, while the officers remained in detention.

The Army spokesman, Maj. Bartolome Bacarro, said in a statement the jailbreak was discovered at around 9 p.m. after the last headcount before lights out.

The four were being detained with 26 other co-conspirators in what used to be the Army’s intelligence school, a two-story structure near the camp’s perimeter fence.

They reportedly piled several chairs on top of each other to climb up to a window.

The four then clambered over the camp’s fence, which faces the C-5 Road.

Bacarro described the four escapees as “very dangerous.”

The Army inspector general, Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Bocobo, was ordered to investigate the escape, he said.

The Army chief, Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, sought the help of the Philippine National Police to recapture the escapees.

The PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil, said the police are closely coordinating with the Armed Forces.

Bataoil said the PNP full alert is meant to prevent coup plotters, renegade military and police officers, and other groups from taking advantage of the situation.

The escape came before the four officers could be transferred to separate quarters also within the compound. The military said it received an intelligence report that the four were planning to break out.

The transfer was supposed to have been made on Tuesday but the four officers’ lawyer, Ruel Pulido, opposed it.

Esperon also revealed during the press conference that after he learned of the incident he immediately conducted a loyalty check among the officers of the Philippine Army to check whether there are disgruntled members who abetted the escape. He said initial investigation was negative.
--With Jeannette Andrade, Jefferson Antiporda

On the loose

Capt. Nathaniel Rabonza 
- Member of the Army’s Special Forces Command
Graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1995
- Reportedly a nephew of a retired Maj. Gen. Glen Rabonza who is the  administrator of the Office of the Civil Defense

1st Lt. Lawrence San Juan
- A member of the Light Reaction Company, the Army’s premier antiterrorism unit
- Belongs to PMA Class of 1997

1st Lt. Patricio Bumindang Jr.
- A member of the Army’s Light Armored Regiment, which is in charge of armored units and assets 
- Belongs to PMA Class of 1998

1st Lt. Sonny Sarmiento
- A company commander in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Pagadian City, Zamboanga  del Sur





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