Magdalo: 10 years after Oakwood


By Ellen Tordesillas

No doubt, the Magdalo group of military officers and soldiers has come a long way from that early morning of July 27, 2003 when they jolted the nation with the protest they staged against Gloria Arroyo at Oakwood Hotel in the heart of Makati’s business district.

So many things have happened. Even the name of the hotel has changed. It’s now Ascott Hotel and Oakwood has moved to Pasig City.

Last Monday, after the traditional State of the Nation Address by the president at the opening of Congress, new members of the House of Representatives Gary Alejano and Ashley Acedillo invited relatives and close friends to a thanksgiving dinner at Lexington Gardens in Pasig.

Alejano and Acedillo belong to the Magdalo partylist which represents some 200,000 former and retired military and police personnel, urban poor, and the youth from all over the country.

Re-elected senator Antonio Trillanes IV, was there.

The gathering was more meaningful because that was five days before the 10th anniversary of what is commonly referred as the “Oakwood mutiny.”

On July 27, 2003, they gathered at Oakwood Hotel, placed bombs around it, and demanded for the resignation of Gloria Arroyo from the presidency (who is now in detention accused of electoral sabotage and plunder), then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes (who committed suicide in 2011), the Philippine National Police Director Hermogenes Ebdane, and Victor Corpus, then chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

They accused the named officials of corruption including selling arms and ammunition to rebels.

They were charged with the unbailable crime of coup d’etat. In the seven years in detention, they were not the only one subjected to all sorts of pressures, but also their families.

Some of them succumbed to the pressures, but most of them stood firm. They even staged another protest in November 2007, at the Manila Peninsula.

But throughout their imprisonment, they felt the support of the people which Trillanes, a former Navy captain, tested with a senatorial run. He won campaigning from his detention cell.

They were granted amnesty by President Aquino in late 2010.

The officers’ desire to serve the people never wavered and they prepared for it. Almost all of them continued their studies online. Trillanes defended his thesis for his Masters in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance while in detention.

Alejano obtained a Master’s degree in Public Administration at UP Open University. Acedillo, who was released on bail in 2008, earlier than others, got his Master’s in Management at the Asian Institute of Management.

Trillanes said what they were celebrating last Monday was “another milestone in Magdalo’s journey.”

Alejano said, “Clearly, what we are now and what we are doing now are results of our desire for change for the better for our country 10 years ago when we staged a protest at Oakwood hotel in Makati. Sa kabila ng mga pagsubok at kakulangan, napagtagumpayan naming ito dahil sa grasya at biyaya ng Diyos at pangarap ng bawat isa ng isang maayos at masaganang bansa para sa Pilipino.”

Acedillo said, “Having the benefit of 10 years hindsight, whatever limitations we had both in the means available to us and the scope of our youthful judgment in 2003 when we decided to go to Oakwood, the crucible of many years in prison and the hardships that came with it only served to sharpen our minds ever more, allowed us to mature, and harden our resolve even further.”

He was reluctant to use the word “success” to what they achieved so far saying they owe it all to God and the Filipino people. “Whether allowing Sen. Trillanes to win in the Senate and the Magdalo in the Lower House, granting President Aquino the grace and courage to give us amnesty or even allowing the truth of our grievances against corruption and bad governance to see the light of day – lahat ng ito kaloob lamang po sa amin ng Maykapal at ng sambayanan.”

The 56 bills they have filed, in close coordination with Trillanes in the Senate, reflect their focus. One is ther creation of the Philippine Veterans Authority that will consolidate at eight separate agencies currently e working and operating for the welfare of veterans and military retirees.

Another is a bill to create a National Capital Commission to comprehensively study the potential of relocating and transferring of the national capital and permanent seat of the national government of the country from the City of Manila.

Another is a bill that seeks to create the Government Reorganization Commission to undertake studies and propose measures to abolish, merge, integrate, transfer, regroup, or restructure departments, bureaus, offices, government-owned and controlled corporations and other agencies of the Executive Branch in order to eliminate overlapping and/or fragmentation functions of programs and activities.

“Clearly,” Acedillo said, “ hindi pa po tapos ang misyon namin- for God, country and the people.”

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