House adopts amnesty resolutions for rebel groups

House adopts amnesty resolutions for rebel groups

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday gave its concurrence to President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamations granting amnesty to members of four major rebel groups.

During the plenary session, the chamber adopted House Concurrent Resolutions 12, 13, 14, and 15 with votes of 192-0-1, 195-2-1, 197-0-1, and 191-7-1, respectively.

The resolutions, authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, concur with Proclamation Nos. 1090, 1091, 1092, and 1093, all dated Feb. 5, 2021, granting amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), and former rebels of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG), who have committed crimes punishable under Act No. 3815 or the Revised Penal Code, and special penal laws in furtherance of their political beliefs.

Velasco said the House adoption of these concurrent resolutions is a “significant milestone” toward reconciliation and lasting peace in the country.

“Accepting these rebels back into the folds of the law through amnesty and eventually providing them access to government’s existing socioeconomic services are essential to attaining peace and reconciliation in the country,” he said.

Velasco said the granting of amnesty is proof of the government’s sincerity and determination to attain sustainable peace in the country.

“Both Houses of Congress recognize that transforming MNLF members from armed combatants to productive citizens and peace partners is necessary to achieve the paramount ends of the peace process—national unity, solidarity and progress for all Filipinos,” he said.

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, for his part, said the adoption is expected to enhance the Duterte administration’s reconciliation and peace building efforts by welcoming rebels who will lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

“I now appeal to our brothers and sisters who are eligible to avail of this amnesty offer. It is high time to abandon the armed struggle and take advantage of the amnesty program offered by the President,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez argued that returning to the fold of law does not mean giving up their ideals, as these will be achieved under the amnesty program being implemented by the government.

“A home in your own parcel of land. Free education for your children. A stable job to feed your family,” Romualdez said.

In his proclamations, Duterte said the government’s peace policy is to nurture a climate conducive for peace, as well as to implement programs for reconciliation and reintegration of rebels into mainstream society.

“There is a need for the government to act on former combatants request for the grant of amnesty so that they may live in peace in the pursuit of productive endeavors without prejudice to any legal arrangement that may result from a negotiated settlement which the government is pursuing with the various rebel and insurgent groups,” the proclamations read.

According to the presidential proclamations, the grant of amnesty in favor of the former rebels will “promote an atmosphere conducive to the attainment of a just, comprehensive, and enduring equanimity.”

Granting amnesty is also in line with the government’s call for peace, unity, and reconciliation to bring closure to past enmity, rancor, and bitterness that has stymied lasting amity among Filipinos, the proclamations said.

The amnesty will not be granted to those who have been proscribed or changed under the Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act 9372 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 or RA 11479.

The proclamations note that the crimes committed in pursuit of a political belief include “acts and omissions performed or undertaken as part of a plan, a program of action or strategy decided by the rebel leadership to overthrow and replace the National Government, any of its political subdivisions, or duly constituted authority, with or without the use of arms.”

The amnesty granted shall not cover kidnap for ransom, massacre, rape, terrorism, and other crimes committed against chastity as defined in the amended Revised Penal Code, crimes committed for personal ends, violation of Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 or RA 9165, and grave violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949.

Other crimes not covered by Duterte’s amnesty are those 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.

If granted amnesty, former rebels will be able to restore their civil or political rights suspended or lost by virtue of criminal conviction, based on the proclamations.

The amnesty will also 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.

An Amnesty Commission shall be created to receive and process applications for amnesty and determine whether applicants are entitled to reprieve under the proclamations. (PNA)

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