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
The camp’s commander, Brig. Gen. Ruben Rafael,
was sacked after the jailbreak and replaced by his deputy, Col.
The escape came a month after another mutineer,
Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, slipped from his escorts after a
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
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
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
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
- 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