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(UPDATE) Arroyo signs amnesty proclamation for communists

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 10:38:00 09/07/2007

Filed Under: Armed conflict

MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed an amnesty proclamation for communist rebels to woo them to return to the fold of the law, her adviser on the peace process has announced.

Jesus Dureza said the President signed Proclamation 1377 on September 6 before she left for Australia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders meet.

The amnesty proclamation will cover members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army; other communist rebel groups; and their umbrella organization, the National Democratic Front, Dureza said.

Under the proclamation, amnesty will cover the crime of rebellion and all other crimes "in pursuit of political beliefs," but not including crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping for ransom, use and trafficking of illegal drugs and other crimes for personal ends and violations of international law or convention and protocols "even if alleged to have been committed in pursuit of political beliefs."

Those who might file for amnesty include those that have committed the crime on or before the effectivity of the proclamation. Those who have already been granted amnesty under previous amnesty proclamations are no longer qualified, the same decree said.

It added that "those who have been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction may benefit from a grant of amnesty by the restoration of applicants' civil or political rights."

The National Committee on Social Integration (NCSI) will issue a Certificate of Amnesty to qualified applicants, but will note that the application will not automatically result in the grant of amnesty, it said.

Other highlights:

? Extinction of criminal liability. Amnesty under the proclamation shall extinguish any criminal liability for acts committed in pursuit of political beliefs, without prejudice to the grantee's civil liability for injuries or damages caused to private persons.
? Restoration of civil or political rights. The grant of amnesty shall restore the grantee's civil and political rights lost or suspended by virtue of conviction for crimes covered thereby.
? Unless detained pursuant to law, a person who applies for amnesty shall be issued a safe Conduct Pass by the provincial or city peace and order council amnesty centers. The Safe Conduct Pass shall provide immunity from warrantless arrests for offenses covered under the proclamation.
? Applicants with firearms are required to turnover their firearms within six months from their filing for amnesty.
? Application for the grant of amnesty shall be filed before the NCSI or the provincial or city peace and order council amnesty centers six months from the effectivity of the proclamation.
? At the local level, amnesty centers shall be established under the peace and order councils. The centers shall be composed of the provincial/city prosecutor as chairperson and will have members from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, brigade/battalion level of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the area, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Even without the formal talks with the communists, "the President wants the peace process moving" Dureza told INQUIRER.net Friday in a phone interview from Brussels.

Dureza had said that amnesty was seen as a key to finally put an end to the decades-old communist insurgency problem in the countryside.

At the meeting of the National Security Council last Tuesday, Arroyo announced the allocation of P500 million for the "social integration" of the rebels.

Dureza said they were now in the process of crafting implementing rules and regulations for the amnesty proclamation. It is also being readied for submission to the Senate and the House of Representatives for their concurrence.

The proclamation becomes effective only after Congress has concurred, he added.

Dureza, together with National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, are in Belgium to brief Philippine ambassadors to 11 European countries on the peace and security situation in the Philippines.

Dureza said he discussed with the ambassadors the Human Security Act, the Basilan conflict, the MILF peace talks, the case of CPP chairman Jose Maria Sison, and the amnesty proclamation.

Originally posted at 10:39am

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