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Generals bare plot to kill militant activists

By Christian V. Esguerra
Inquirer

Posted in the Inquirer website http://www.inq7.net
June 17, 2007

MANILA -- Accused coup plotter-turned-senator Antonio Trillanes IV is not alone in his plan to resurrect the "Hello Garci" controversy and take the Arroyo administration to task for the unabated extrajudicial killings.

A group of top military officials critical of President Macapagal-Arroyo has vowed to load the detained senator-elect with "ammunition" on these two issues once he begins work in the 14th Congress next month.

Two of these officials, both generals, spoke with the Inquirer on Sunday on condition of anonymity.

"We will send him all the ammunition, the pieces of evidence that we have in our possession," one of the officials said in an interview. "He can use them as materials for Senate investigations or privilege speeches."

Trillanes could use as his opening salvo information on how another general "spoke openly" about liquidating militant activists in Luzon, according to the younger of the two generals.

The source said the discussion took place during a command conference wherein his fellow general asked his men about the status of their supposed "mission" on militant groups.

"He was asking his men how many militants they had killed so far," the source said. "They were discussing it openly. They were even boasting of (the killings).

"They really had a 'gunpowder' mentality (utak pulbura)."

The source said another general present at the command conference was so incredulous of the blatant discussion that he phoned then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Generoso Senga to ask: "Is killing militant activists really the policy of the military nowadays?"

According to the source, Senga was himself surprised and blurted, "No!"

Senga retired in July 2006 after serving as AFP chief of staff for a year.

The second source expressed fear that lower-ranking soldiers might get the impression that liquidating political activists and other perceived enemies of government was a ticket for promotion.

"The idea that these things are part of a government policy will only embolden them to kill even more," he warned during the interview.

Since Ms Arroyo came to power in 2001, a total of 893 militant group leaders and members have killed, according to the human rights group Karapatan. The Inquirer count is 297.

Last week, Trillanes announced that he would call for a Senate investigation into the rampant political killings, many of which had been blamed on rogue elements within the Armed Forces.

"Trillanes knows about (political killings) already, but he doesn't have the details that we have yet," said the younger general.

The general accused of prodding his men into killing political activists was involved in other illegal matters as well, according to the two sources.

Earlier this year, they said their fellow general visited a major Army camp in Luzon to campaign against Trillanes and anti-government party-list groups, such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela.

"He was in the camp on at least three occasions, telling the officers there not to vote for these people," according to the older general.

Like Trillanes, the two Inquirer sources said they were not letting go of the "Hello Garci" controversy, which, the Arroyo administration and its allies had repeatedly described as a closed book.

The sources said they would supply the senator-elect, one of the leaders of the failed Oakwood mutiny in 2003, with more information on military officers involved in massive cheating in the 2004 elections.

They said the names of the military top brass mentioned in the "Garci" phone conversations were ""more or less complete." But many lower-ranking military officers similarly used in the alleged cheating had yet to be identified, they said.

"The names that have been made public so far comprise not even 10 percent of the soldiers actually involved in the cheating," the younger of the two sources said.

Among the generals mentioned in the supposed phone conversation between Ms Arroyo and ex-election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The Inquirer called up Esperon, twice but he did not answer his phone. Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, the AFP information chief, did not answer his phone when the Inquirer tried to reach him.

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