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Give amnesty a chance, panel urges Congress

/ 05:42 AM February 19, 2021

The head of the government’s rebel returnee program on Thursday urged Congress to approve the orders submitted by Malacañang in line with the creation of the National Amnesty Commission.

Defense Undersecretary and Task Force Balik Loob chair Reynaldo Mapagu said in a statement that this was “an opportunity for our former rebels, who have abandoned the more than 50-year senseless local communist armed conflict, to have a clean slate.”

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He welcomed the creation of the commission through Executive Order No. 125 and President Duterte’s issuance of several proclamations granting amnesty to members of rebel groups who had committed crimes to pursue their political beliefs.

Qualified rebels

The National Amnesty Commission will be in charge of processing amnesty applications and determining the eligibility of applicants.

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Mapagu urged Congress to “favorably consider and concur with the President’s amnesty proclamation for the former rebels of the communist terrorist group.”

Proclamation No. 1093 has been submitted to Congress for its concurrence.

“Task Force Balik Loob will collaborate with the National Amnesty Commission to ensure that qualified former rebels can be processed and eventually be given amnesty,” he said.

Carefully screened

The implementing rules and regulations for the amnesty grant will be crafted by the newly formed commission through its secretariat, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said members of rebel groups would be screened carefully and evaluated “to determine if they actually qualify for amnesty which, incidentally, requires the concurrence of Congress.”

He added that he would ask the National Prosecution Service to do an inventory of cases pending investigation and/or trial involving these classes of people covered by the amnesty proclamations.

“But dismissal of these cases are not automatic,” he told reporters.

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According to Guevarra, the amnesty commission will determine the rules for granting amnesty.

Political objective

“But the most fundamental criterion is whether or not the offense committed by the subject individual was in pursuit of a political objective,” he said.In Proclamations No. 1090 to 1093 signed on Feb. 5, Mr. Duterte granted amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade Tabara Paduano Group, and former members of the communist terrorist group.

Under the proclamations, the crimes covered by amnesty include rebellion; conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion; disloyalty of public officers or employees; inciting to rebellion or insurrection; sedition; conspiracy to commit sedition; inciting to sedition; illegal assembly; illegal association; direct assault and indirect assault; and resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person.

Other crimes covered

Also covered are tumults and other disturbances of public order; unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances; alarms and scandals; illegal possession of firearms; ammunition or explosives, provided these offenses were committed in connection with rebellion and those charged, detained or convicted of common crimes can establish by substantial evidence they committed these in pursuit of political beliefs. The proclamations also noted that the amnesty does not cover “kidnap for ransom, massacre, rape, terrorism and other crimes committed against chastity.”

Furthermore, it does not grant amnesty to those who committed violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949, and crimes identified by the United Nations that can never be amnestied such as “genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances, and other gross violations of human rights.” —WITH A REPORT FROM TINA G. SANTOS

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TAGS: Amnesty, Congress, Government, Human rights, National Amnesty Commission, Rebel groups
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