MILF, Bangsamoro gov’t hail Senate’s amnesty nod

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 January) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro government lauded Wednesday the concurrence of the Senate to grant amnesty to members of the erstwhile largest Islamic rebel group in Mindanao.

MILF combatants at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Von Alhaq, MILF spokesperson, described the Senate’s adoption to grant them amnesty as a “very good development.”

“Supposedly, the amnesty should have been granted even before the peace negotiations started [in 1997],” he said in a phone interview.

“This development is a sign of compliance of the government to the peace agreement,” he added.

On Monday, the Senate adopted three House resolutions granting amnesty to the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB).

In February 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte issued proclamations that grant amnesty to the rebel groups.

Alhaq said that if the general amnesty will fully take effect, MILF members charged with crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs would be cleared and can go out without fear of getting arrested.

Such amnesty will allow them to run for elective positions should they decide to participate in the elections, he added.

Alhaq said the top MILF leaders and members were charged for crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs.

“A revolution is a political offense. We waged a war against the government in pursuit of our political aspiration… This general amnesty will clear us of such case,” Alhaq said.

The MILF originally waged a rebellion for the right to self-determination of Muslims in Mindanao, and in the course of the peace negotiation opted for autonomy.

In 2014, the government and the MILF signed a final peace agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), after 17 years of negotiations.

Under the CAB, a Bangsamoro region shall be created, which was realized in 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

BARMM spokesperson Naguib Sinarimbo said the regional government welcomes the Senate’s decision favoring the granting of amnesty by the President to MILF members.

“Under the Constitution, the power of the President to issue an amnesty will require concurrence of the Congress, and because we have a provision under the CAB for such purpose, the national government complied to that in a form of a proclamation granting an amnesty,” said Sinarimbo, also the Minister of the Bangsamoro’s Interior and Local Government.

Sinarimbo said that the amnesty is a milestone that is very significant especially to the members of the MILF as “everyone knows that majority of the MILF members who fought against the government have incidentally committed violations to the law in pursuit of their political beliefs.”

“Since the national government recognized the legitimacy of their cause, we have this amnesty,” he added.

Section 4 of Presidential Proclamation No. 1090 states that the amnesty “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 whose right to be indemnified is fully recognized therein. The grant of amnesty shall also effect the restoration of civil or political rights suspended or lost by virtue of criminal conviction.”

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. also welcomed the Senate’s decision favoring the granting of amnesty to the MILF, the MILF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB.

“It will allow them to put the past behind them, and give them and their families the opportunity to make the full transition to peaceful and productive civilian life as their social and political rights are restored along with the granting of amnesty” Galvez said in a statement.

He called upon the members of the former rebel groups to take advantage of the amnesty program, and use it as an opportunity to help sustain the gains of peace.

“To the members of the former rebel groups who are now working with the government through the various peace mechanisms, may the granting of amnesty further inspire and embolden us in our journey towards a just and lasting peace,” he said. 

Under the amnesty proclamations, any member of the MILF, MNLF and RPM-P/RPA/ABB who has committed any act or omission in pursuit of their political belief, including those detained, charged, or convicted for such acts or omissions, may apply for amnesty, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)