DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 July) – In his State of the Nation (SONA) last Monday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vowed to issue a Proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees, a move that is long overdue because the year-long period for application in the amnesty proclamations of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, had lapsed in January this year.
“For almost half a century, some of our fellow Filipinos have taken to arms to make their views known and felt. We are now at a point in our history when their armed struggle has evolved. We have now progressed together towards peace and development,” Marcos said during his SONA.
He said his administration has incorporated capacity-building and social protection into its reintegration programs to guarantee full decommissioning of former combatants. Community development and livelihood programs, the Barangay Development and Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Programs “have been effective in addressing the root cause of conflict in the countryside,” he added.
To complete the reintegration process, Marcos vowed to “issue a Proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees, and I ask Congress to support me in this endeavor.”
Marcos has not issued the Proclamation as of Sunday, July 30. “It might be out this August,” Galvez told MindaNews on Sunday, adding that “language is being finalized.”
“What is good is that we have already the guidance from the President and we have now a working National Amnesty Commission,” he said.
For members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other revolutionary groups, it has been a long wait for amnesty, from the Duterte administration to Marcos Jr. administration.
On February 5, 2021, President Duterte signed Proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093, granting amnesty to members of the MILF (1090) and MNLF (1091), the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa – Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (1092) and the “communist terrorist group” (1093), “who have committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws” such as rebellion or insurrection, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion or insurrection, among others.
Applications for the grant of amnesty in the four proclamations, however, were to be filed with the National Amnesty Commission (NAC) within one year from the effectivity of the Proclamations. The Proclamations took effect on January 24, 2022. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives concurred on Proclamations 1090, 1091 and 1092. Only the House of Representatives concurred on Proclamation 1093.
Under Article VII, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution, a presidential amnesty proclamation takes effect only upon the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress.
Duterte issued Executive Order 125 creating the NAC on the same day he signed the four amnesty proclamations. The NAC is tasked with receiving and processing applications for amnesty and determining whether the applicants are entitled to amnesty under the four proclamations.
But Duterte, the first Mindanawon to rule the nation, stepped down as President on June 30, 2022 without constituting the NAC.
Marcos constituted the NAC only in February 2023, when the year-long period for amnesty application had already lapsed a month earlier.
The NAC is chaired by Atty. Leah Tanodra-Armamento with Atty. Nasser Marohomsalic and Atty. Jamar Kulayan as commissioners. Armamento was a former member of the legal team of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MILF.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. thanked the President for his unwavering support to the Bangsamoro and for helping former rebels in their transformation process.
“What we have witnessed in today’s SONA is President Marcos’ genuine sincerity in implementing all the signed peace agreements, and his commitment to bring sustainable peace throughout the country. This is true to his mantra of unity towards national healing and reconciliation,” Galvez said after the SONA.
In a press statement, House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan of 4Ps partylist, said Marcos’ amnesty plan is “an act of grace that will help heal the nation.”
“Forgiveness is necessary in conflict resolution. We are in full favor of the President’s amnesty plan. It is an act of grace that will help heal the nation,” Libanan said.
Extend application period
On July 18, six days before Marcos’ SONA, several members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) called on the President to extend the application period for the grant of amnesty to the MILF and MNLF as the deadline was last January 24.
He said they hope Marcos will grant a blanket amnesty to qualified applicants
“We are asking the President to extend the application for amnesty for MILF and MNLF members. The granting of amnesty will help sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Atty. Lanang Ali Jr. said in a hybrid press conference livestreamed from Cotabato City.
“We appeal to President Marcos to extend and fully complete the amnesty program in the spirit of unity,” Deputy Floor Leader Mary Ann Arnado said.
Arnado noted that amnesty is part of the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF in 2014.
The Annex on Normalization provides that in order to “facilitate the healing of the wounds of conflict and the return to normal life,” Government shall take “immediate steps through amnesty, pardon and other available processes towards the resolution of cases of persons charged with or convicted of crimes and offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”
“By granting them blanket amnesty (for waging an armed revolution against the government), you remove the sword hanging over their heads that they can be arrested anytime. Amnesty is about forgiveness,” Arnado said.
In response, the NAC welcomed the recommendation of the BTA members on the extension of the application period but noted that the amnesty proclamations enumerated the specific crimes that are the subject of amnesty.
“Blanket amnesty… will obliterate criminal liabilities for crimes committed by private individuals with self-serving interests. Consequently, this will have an adverse impact on the nation’s quest for justice,” Armamento said.
Armamento and Commissioner Kulayan attended the Stakeholders’ Forum on the Bangsamoro Amnesty in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao del Norte last Thursday, three days after Marcos’ SONA. The Commission touched base with MILF base commanders and BTA members.
According to the Proclamations, amnesty shall not be granted to those who have already been proscribed or those charged under RA 9372 (Human Security Act of 2007) or RA 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Amnesty, according to the Proclamations, “shall not cover kidnap for ransom massacre, rape, terrorism, and other rimes committcd against chastity .. crimes committed for personal ends, violation of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, grave violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949, and those identified by the United Nations as crimes that can never be amnestied such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances and other gross violations of human rights.”
Before the NAC was constituted, the Action for Advancement and Development of Mindanao (AFADMin, Inc.), a Cotabato City-based Moro youth-led organization submitted to the MILF’s Peace Implementing Panel on October 4, 2022 in Cotabato City, a total of 523 application folders for amnesty, mostly from within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The applicants filled out forms “that contain validation from the chain of commands of the MILF. This is for purposes of making sure that only bona fide members can be granted under 1090,” the AFADMIN said.
The folders were turned over to the MILF Peace Implementing Panel “for further processing” and later for submission to the NAC. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)