National Amnesty Commission speeds up application process
MANILA, Philippines — The head of the National Amnesty Commission (NAC) on Monday expressed optimism that the body would be able to speed up the processing of applications for amnesty for rebels covered by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recent amnesty proclamations.
Speaking at the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon news briefing, NAC Chair Leah Tanodra-Armamento said that through Executive Order No. 47 which the president also issued last week, the agency was “strengthened” because it has now its own budget.
“What the president did is to strengthen the NAC in such a way that we are now given the leeway on our budget and we’ll file it directly with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). We are no longer included in the budget of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. This is a big thing because the processing of amnesty can go ahead without going through the processes of another government agency,” Armamento said.
She said the NAC currently had a budget of P88 million and had asked for P60 million more which was placed under unprogrammed funds. The budget will not be enough because the commission has to create more local amnesty boards (Labs), she said.
Processing period extended
Armamento also said that while the NAC under the previous administration only had one year to process amnesty applications from the time Congress concurred in the amnesty proclamations, Marcos extended the period to two years.
“That is [also] a big thing because that will give us enough room to accommodate all applicants. Because, you know, some of them (prospective applicants) have pending arrest warrants and some of them are in hiding so we have to reach out to them and I think it will take time for us to look for them and locate where they are and go to their places as what has been done before,” she said.
The NAC was originally created in February 2021 through EO 127 issued by then President Rodrigo Duterte to receive and process applications for amnesty by former members of Muslim separatist and communist insurgent groups who are facing criminal cases related to their pursuit of political beliefs such as rebellion, sedition, direct assault, public disturbance, illegal assembly, illegal association, unlawful use of publications and illegal possession of firearms.
The processing of the applications will take place once the amnesty proclamations are concurred upon by Congress, in accordance with the Constitution. All of Duterte’s amnesty proclamations for rebel groups were approved by Congress in January last year except the one for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) that his administration tagged as “Communist Terrorist Group.”
The one-year application period lapsed this year and there have been calls for its extension. Marcos issued the new amnesty proclamations, with the CPP-NPA-NDFP included once more, in furtherance of the peace process and so that the NAC can continue with its amnesty processing preparations.
With the NAC getting funds straight from the DBM, Armamento said the commission can create more Labs to vet the applications, verify the identity and affiliations of the applicants, and inform them if they have pending criminal cases.