Arroyo made the announcement during a nationally televised ceremony marking the oath-taking of new military chief Gen. Alexander Yano. He replaced a general known for fiercely defending Arroyo against coup plotters and other threats.
The government has struggled in recent years to head off unrest in the 120,000-strong military by fighting corruption, introducing reforms and modernizing equipment as it battles communist and Muslim rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants. The underfunded military is one of Asia’s weakest.
“The dismal failure of destabilization attempts underscored just how out-of-touch the plotters are with the mood of the nation,” Arroyo said. “The nation wants peace, order and stability, not more political shenanigans.”
Arroyo paid tribute to outgoing military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon for his loyalty and battlefield successes against communist guerrillas, military dissidents and militants from the Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah terror groups.
Esperon had urged Arroyo to pardon the young officers, who were convicted last month and sentenced to prison terms of 12 to 40 years.
Esperon said the officers showed remorse and good behavior during nearly five years of detention, which he said served as a warning that military adventurism was not the way to seek reforms.
After their conviction the most senior among the nine, army Capt. Gerardo Gambala, read a joint statement at a news conference acknowledging that they had erred in launching the daylong mutiny. They asked fellow soldiers not to follow their example.
The officers who were given executive clemency are Captains Gerardo Gambala, Milo Maestrecampo, Alvin Ebreo, Laurence Luis Somera, Albert Baloloy and John Andres; and First Lieutenants Cleo Dongaas, Florentino Somera and Kristoffer Bryan Yasay.
Bannering the so-called Magdaló group of reformists in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, they and about 300 other soldiers mounted a mutiny from the plush Oakwood hotel in Makati City in July 2003. There, they called on Mrs. Arroyo and her top generals to step down over alleged corruption. Their rebellion was put down in less than 24 hours.
The influential Roman Catholic Church had warned Mrs. Arroyo against granting the pardon, saying it would further encourage military adventurism.
During the July 2003 coup attempt, the officers and about 300 other soldiers took over the upscale Oakwood hotel and a nearby shopping center in Manila’s financial district of Makati, rigging the area with bombs. They denounced corruption in the government and military.
They later surrendered.
Most of the soldiers who took part in the failed coup have been discharged after years of detention. Others entered into plea bargains and returned to military service. A number of defiant officers have remained in detention, refusing to seek Arroyo’s pardon.
The 2003 episode was one of Arroyo’s most serious challenges since she took power in a 2001 “people power” uprising that ousted her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, on charges of corruption.
Arroyo has survived four attempted power grabs and three opposition impeachment attempts in her seven turbulent years in power.