By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – The National Amnesty Commission (NAC) is determined to expedite the implementation of the government’s amnesty program for qualified members of revolutionary organizations.
“We welcome the call for the President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) to extend the application period for the granting of amnesty to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members. It is a valid and reasonable request,” NAC chairperson Leah Tanodra-Armamento said in a statement Friday.
She added that those who are eligible to apply for amnesty under the existing proclamations are individual members of the MNLF or MILF who have committed the crimes defined under the Revised Penal Code or special laws, in furtherance of their political beliefs.
“Amnesty is granted to a person not to an association because a criminal act is personal. An association cannot commit a crime thus even a corporation which is a juridical person is not liable for the criminal acts instead it is the natural persons behind the corporation that are liable for the crime committed,” Armamento said.
The NAC chief also clarified that proclamations issued on the matter enumerate the specific crimes that are covered by amnesty.
“Thus, mere membership to a group such as the MILF is not sufficient to qualify one for amnesty. The application for amnesty must specifically state the acts committed that are covered by the proclamations on amnesty,” Armamento added.
She said that Under Section 19, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution, the President has the power to “grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of the Congress.”
“Amnesty is the grant of general pardon to political offenders either after conviction or before charges are filed. It is a form of executive clemency under the Constitution that may be granted by the President with the concurrence of the legislature,” Armamento said.
She said blanket amnesty, on the other hand, refers to the grant of amnesty which covers all crimes committed by the applicant regardless of its nature.
She added that the Constitutional framers could not have intended it that way since international law also forms part of our land and there are offenses that, under international law, cannot be the subject of amnesty.
As a public act of the President, she said the granting of amnesty is a reflection of the national government’s vision of achieving reconciliation and unity and thus “should only cover offenses that are politically-motivated and affecting the national interest.”
“Blanket amnesty will defeat this purpose, as it 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,” she said.
Meanwhile, NAC Commissioner lawyer Jamar Kulayan said they ensure expeditious but cautious processing of amnesty applications since they have to do a delicate balancing act between the state’s obligation under international law to protect or promote human rights and the government’s commitment to peace, reconciliation and unity.
Kulayan said NAC’s mandate under Executive Order 125 and the corresponding proclamations specifically envisioned an individual application limited only to crimes mentioned as subject to amnesty.
This means that NAC’s duty is to “receive and process applications for amnesty to determine whether the applicants who shall apply therefore are entitled to amnesty under the corresponding Proclamation.”
The NAC is tasked to receive and process applications for amnesty submitted through the Local Amnesty Board and determine whether the applicants are entitled to amnesty under Proclamation Nos. 1090, 1091, 1092, or 1093.
These proclamations, issued by former President Rodrigo Duterte, were concurred by the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Senate on January 24, 2022, except for 1093 which was concurred by lower chamber only.
The proclamations cover the amnesty applications of MILF (1090), MNLF (1091), and Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG) or KAPATIRAN members (1092).
Under Proclamation 1090, amnesty does not cover members of the MILF who were involved in cases related to kidnap-for-ransom, massacre, rape, terrorism, and other crimes against chastity.
It also does not include crimes done for personal ends, drug-related crimes, and crimes the United Nations considers as ineligible for amnesty: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations. With the lapse of the year-long period for amnesty applications on January 24, 2023, there is a need to extend the deadline for applications.
Thus, the proposal to extend the application period until 2025, the year the term of the interim body ends.
NAC Commissioner Nasser Marahomsalic, meanwhile, described the amnesty as the crowning glory of the peace process.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legislative Affairs (ODESLA) is currently studying the proposal to extend the application period for the granting of amnesty to former rebels.
“The proposal is now being reviewed by the ODESLA. It is in the best position to determine the legality of the proposal. We in the NAC are confident its recommendation will be favorable for all parties, especially for the former rebels,” Galvez said.
He said the granting of amnesty to former rebels will not only “give them relief for the crimes they have committed, but more importantly, provide an opportunity for them to rebuild their lives.”
“Under the Marcos administration’s banner of unity, the national government is leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to these former rebels and helping them become peaceful, productive and law-abiding members of society,” Galvez said.
The granting of amnesty, he noted, is among the key components of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation under the Normalization Program for former rebels, which will enable them to make the successful transition to mainstream society and walk the path of peace.
“Through our Amnesty Program, the national government wants to demonstrate to these former rebels that they have made the right decision in laying down their arms and returning to the folds of the law,” Galvez said.
The peace adviser said he is confident the NAC will be able to effectively carry out its crucial mandate, particularly in giving former rebels the chance to start a new chapter in their lives after turning away from a life of violence.
“Under the leadership of Atty. Leah Tanodra-Armamento, we believe that the NAC will play a key role in achieving our collective vision of bringing a just and lasting peace to all Filipinos,” Galvez said.
In his speech during the oathtaking of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and NAC officials, Marcos emphasized the crucial role of the agencies in helping to bring genuine peace to the country.
“The National Amnesty [Commission] and the OPAPRU work together to bring peace to our countryside. We in government know how important our work is. And that is why it is very important that you understand that we must work together,” the President said.
“Certainly, the peace process is important because, without the peace process, progress will not be made. We are here to support the advocacies that our agencies represent,” the Chief Executive added. (PNA)