Pray for Magdalo Soldiers: Presidential Pardon & Submission to Authorities According to the Law and the Bible

originally posted  at Friendster blog:

“To God be all the glory and honor for the change in my heart.” — these are not the words one would expect from a man sentenced with Reclusion Perpetua or an imprisonment of 20 years and 1 day to 40 years.  These could not be the words of a man who in 2003 after the Oakwood Mutiny”, was bitter and angry, unable to understand why he should be in prison when he was only fighting for what was right and was only expressing disgust for corruption and other ills of the government and the military.

Yet these are the words that came from Captain Gerardo Gambala when deciding to change his plea of not guilty to guilty to coup d’etat charges. Captain Gambala is one of the key leaders in the Oakwood Mutiny, and I believe he was speaking for the rest of his CMU companions.

        Even the AFP was surprised and pleased with the change of their plea.  According to AFP Public Information Officer Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, “What is very, very admirable on the case of the nine officers is their courage to accept that they have committed something wrong and they are willing to face the consequences of the wrong actions that they have committed.” (9Magdalo Soldiers Sentenced 6 to 40 Years Imprisonment. GMA News. 04/08/2008)

        Politically and legally speaking, only a presidential pardon can release them from their prison sentences after the Court’s decision becomes final and executory.

        Why the change of heart?  Is the change really part of a script between Malacañang and the AFP as alleged by some quarters?

        After the promulgation of the decision convicting the junior officers, State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera was quoted: “Their faces looked worry-free.  They seemed relieved that it’s all over now.” (“2 Coup Plotters Get Life”. PDI. p. A8)  They were not relieved that they were finally convicted. I think they were relieved that they did something right and now were at peace with God and themselves.  Worry-free countenances do not mean they were problem-free.

        I am a person who likes simple answers especially when simple answers are closest to the truth.  The catch about simple answers are that they are not controversial, they may not look intellectual, they do not fan the flames of hatred and mistrust, they are not “newsworthy”, and they are not easy to believe.

        But what really happened?  Why the change of heart for Captain Gambala and his companions?  Based on my two-year interaction with some of them and several years of knowing one of them, I believe that the answer really lies in the simple truth that they had individual encounters with God.

        I understand the apprehension of some and even the cynicism of others about the motivations of the group but I can only evaluate and believe what I have personally witnessed and not what others comment on but have not seen.

        Try as people may to understand why these men changed their plea, they will only receive one answer from these men – they admit they committed a wrong and now they submit to God and the duly constituted authorities in this country.  They submit to their God, their officers in the Armed Forces, their Chief Executive, their Judiciary.

        How could they change their hearts?  How could they genuinely have worry-free countenances if not for the genuineness of their turning towards God and turning back to their loyalty to the Philippine Constitution.

        I had a lot of interaction with some Magdalo soldiers since 2006.  Some of them are not among the 9 who changed their plea (one indication that they made individual decisions and were not following a script from Malacañang).  All our visits were logged in the “religious groups” custodial logbooks/sheets of the Custodial Management Unit (CMU) at Fort Bonifacio.  The goal of the visits was to minister or to be an encourager but I always went home playing the part of the encouraged.

        I’ve heard confessions from among them that they started their incarceration with bitter and angry hearts.  One by one they were transformed as they spent their time thinking about their lives and as a church called “Friends of Jesus” patiently and lovingly presented the life-changing claims of Jesus Christ.  One by one they let down the resistant walls of their hearts and submitted to the authority of God and God’s Word over their lives. 

        Subsequently, they learned that submitting to God’s authority also meant submitting to earthly authorities, among these are the authority of the Philippine Armed Forces and the government as a whole, represented by the Chief Executive.  I am sure the difficult truths of Romans 13:1-8 gripped them until they gave up resistance and ended up in submission.  This passage in Romans neither condones nor promotes government tyranny but it is a reminder to rulers of their God-ordained accountability and to the ruled of their God-ordained duty to obey for the benefit of the state and for their own sake — with both ruler and ruled acting with the view of honoring the Ultimate or Supreme Authority.

        As a result, Captain Gambala, speaking in an interview on behalf of their CMU fellowship came to a realization: Akala namin kaya naming baguhin ang bansa natin, hindi pala… narealize namin dito (kulungan) na ang una pala naming baguhin ay ang sarili namin.”  You may listen to the interview by following this link or by clicking the image below.   In the clip, Capt. Gambala ends with "We can only change the nation through changed lives".  They realized this through a process that could be orchestrated only by a Being with the power to effect true and lasting changes, not by a human professionally acquainted in crafting propaganda. 
The immediate results of their personal transformation were a deep desire to read the Bible, pray, and complete several seminars such as “The Purpose Driven Life” and basic Christian truth seminars they called “Alpha Course”.  Consequently, they shared their new-found faith with their fellow detainees until they themselves learned to lead Bible studies and worship services.  They would eventually have worship services wherein they themselves lead the singing and playing of instruments, testifying, and preaching from the Word of God.

        Other direct results of the transformation of their hearts and minds are theirrenewed submission to their military and government leadersThis reportedly strained their relationship with other Magdalo members.  Other manifestations of their change is the lack of bitter words against duly constituted authorities and their non-participation in the Manila Pen Standoff last November 2007.

        As a fellow citizen and lover of this country I have been praying and dreaming of a transformed Philippines.  I have seen God’s transforming power.  The sad part of this story is that after all the transformation and after learning their lessons, the CMU Fellowship Magdalo members, despite their renewed capacity to serve our society, will be behind bars during what is supposed to be the most productive years of their lives.  They have already gone through almost 5 years of imprisonment.  In the absence of a presidential pardon they will be practically serving varying terms of 1 to 35 years more.

        I almost view the past 4 years as wasted years but ironically they don’t, they have consistently expressed that the past 4+ years was God’s way of grabbing their attentionand showing them the problems with their past personal and public lives.  God indeed got their attention and turned them around.  Two years of interactions with them has convinced me of the genuineness of their transformation. 

        To my limited understanding, Criminal Justice can be administered with punishments with different intentions, among them are retributionprotection of society, and rehabilitation

        Briefly, I analyze the three as follows.  As early as the time of Plato we learn that the subject of retribution is not as easy as it may seem.  Does killing a person convicted of homicide really result to justice or a sense that the convict already received what he/she deserved?  As for protection of society, is society not yet protected if a criminal is no longer willing to commit the same crime and has shown several indications that he/she is no longer a threat?   Rehabilitation.  The aim of rehabilitation is to reform convicts and reintegrate them into society as useful citizens.

        The question now is what should be applied to these 9 Magdalo members who had good service records, were trained by the State, risked life and limb in government campaignsvoluntarily surrendered during the “Oakwood Mutiny”, pleaded guilty (though late since the prosecution already rested its case when they changed their plea last April 8), publicly apologized and swore allegiance to the government, behaved well in detentiondid not partake in a subsequent standoffclaimed and determined to live spiritually transformed lives, and humbly asked for grace and pardon?

        Considering these circumstances, do they deserve retribution, is society still at risk with them around, or was the 5 year detention of young repentant soldiers enough rehabilitation?

        The nine Magdalo soldiers have pleaded for a Presidential pardon.  They have laid their lives and their future in the hands of God through our Chief Executive who alone is bestowed with that power to grant pardon.  The Court for its part, can only render its decision based  on law in the proceedings held in its sala.

        We can only pray that the President who wields the power to pardon a convicted felon would believe the sincerity of the transformation and the potentials that these men can still contribute to our country if they are outside the confines of prison.  I am convinced that they have learned their lessons well and they will be good citizens, gentlemen and Christians if given another chance. 

        I continue to dream of a better Philippines and as long as God is God and as long as there are men like these brothers who can show the ability to be transformed and submitted to God and country, my hope will live.  I am encouraged to continue to take every opportunity to help influence and guide other young citizens, civilian and military, and help them against decisions that they will regret later. 
        I pray that young Filipino men and women will continue to nurture their idealism and that adults can help them properly channel their idealism.

        Do pray with us.  Let us ask God on their behalf to soften the heart of our President and treat these young men with the grace and pardon that they humbly ask.  They’ve placed their lives and their future in the hands of God through our President.  We are beyond the walls of prison and the halls of Malacañang but never out of reach of God’s listening ears and watching eyes.

        May the President give heed to the recommendation of the Department of National Defense and the AFP to pardon these 9 young officers.

       Do pray with us.  The Court’s decision will soon be final and executory.  They are not filing any appeal or motion for reconsideration.  They’ve thrust themselves in the hands of their Authorities.    Their lives are so uncertain at this point. 

        Brothers, may you continue to rest in the God who promises you that His plans are not to harm you, that He seeks to give you a future and a hope.  You have been such a great blessing to us.

        Praying, crying, hoping, and believing with you…

3 Responses to “Pray for Magdalo Soldiers”

  1. I commend these men for stepping up and coming to terms with God’s design for submission. I myself have issues with this government but I trust that the sovereignty of God will reign supreme than any earthly power He ordained.
    you, too, kuya aboy are an encouragement. :D
  2. Yes, sir aboy. They have been changed from inside out. They are not only nine. Those who have been released under them have also been shared the gospel. Thank you for praying for my friends kuya aboy. Thank you for showing that gerry and miles and all the other officers are now in terms with the law, with God and with themselves.
  3. Hello Xai, Cesar, at sa lahat ng nagbasa at nanalangin. Praise God for He answered our prayers. I was so excited when I was informed that our 9 Magdalo friends were granted pardon by the President a few days ago. They may be out in a week after their papers are formally processed. :-)

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