FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2007 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued on Thursday Proclamation No. 1377 granting amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and other communist rebel groups in the country.National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales was talking with Vice President Noli De Castro on DZMM Radyo Patrol this morning about this new development. A most interesting feature of the "amnesty strategy" of the government is apparently to allow local NPA units and personalities to negotiate directly with Local Government Units and local leaders so they may avail directly of the Amnesty Proclamation without needing to wait for the Central Committee of CPP to approve some still speculative "peace agreement." Sec. Gonzales makes the quite persuasive point that the CPP NPA's top leadership, most of whom are in "self-exile" (or solitary confinement) in the Netherlands, have strongly opposed the Amnesty Proclamation because they fear their members and cadre in the archipelago will now desert their movement and return to the folds of the Law and Democracy. I hope this plan works, as it apparently has in Bohol, where the Governor has successfully negotiated with local NPA members and reduced the number of active guerilla fronts there from four to one. The formula is now being tried in Samar province and could snowball nationwide. The other attractive feature which Sec. Gonzales mentioned is the determined policy now of DISARMAMENT by the rebels. CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison, may not however be eligible to apply for amnesty because of his pending trial for "remote control murder" of his former comrades Tabara and Kintanar in the Netherlands. On the whole, Bert Gonzales makes a strong case for this newest move to finally end the long running communist insurgency. Early signs are that local NPA members and leaders may be going for this. He even invites them to organize a Communist Party to run in democratic elections.
The proclamation, which was signed by the President before she left Thursday morning for Sydney to attend the 15th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting hosted by Australia, takes effect “upon concurrence by a majority of all the members of Congress.”
In Proclamation 1377, the President explained that “accepting rebels back into the folds of the law through amnesty, and eventually providing them access to the government’s existing socio-economic services, are essential to attaining peace and reconciliation” in the country.
“An amnesty program is an integral component of the government’s comprehensive peace efforts as mandated in Executive Order No. 3 dated 28 February 2001,” the Chief Executive said, adding that the amnesty granted under Proclamation No. 1377 is part of the Social Integration Program for former rebels as provided under Administrative Order No. 172 she issued on March 23, 2007.
“There is an urgent need and expressed desire to extend amnesty to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups as an instrument of reconciliation, and as a path for their return to a peaceful, democratic, and pluralistic society,” the President said.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said certified copies of the proclamation have been transmitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for concurrence in accordance with the Constitution.
Under the proclamation, amnesty shall be granted to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups who shall file application under oath with the National Committee on Social Integration (NCSI) and the Provincial or City Peace and Order Council Amnesty Centers (P/CPOC-ACs) within six (6) months from the effectivity of the proclamation.
Section 2 of the proclamation provides that the amnesty “shall cover the crime of rebellion and all other crimes included therein or incident thereto in pursuit of political belief as defined by jurisprudence, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws.”
Not covered by the proposed amnesty are “crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping for ransom, use and trafficking of illegal drugs and other crimes for personal ends and violations of international law or convention and protocols, even if alleged to have been committed in pursuit of political beliefs.”
The initial amount needed to implement the proclamation shall be sourced from the Office of the President, and released to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the President said, adding that regular funds shall be provided for its implementation in the succeeding years under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial/city office shall receive the amnesty applications for processing by the P/CPOC.
Other salient points of the Proclamation are:
Any member of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups who has committed any act or omission in pursuit of political belief, referred to in Section 2, including those detained, charged or convicted for such acts or omission, may file an application for amnesty.
Crimes for which amnesty may be granted must have been committed on or before the date of effectivity of the Proclamation.
Those who have already been granted amnesty under previous amnesty proclamations shall no longer qualify for amnesty under Proclamation 1377.
Those who have been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction may benefit from a grant of amnesty by the restoration of applicants’ civil or political rights only.
Persons who applied for amnesty under previous proclamations but whose applications were not considered for having been made outside the reglementary period for filing, may apply under this Proclamation.
The National Committee on Social Integration (NSCI) upon due deliberation, shall issue the corresponding Certificate of Amnesty to qualified applicants. The filing of an application herein shall not ipso facto result in a grant of amnesty.
The grant of amnesty shall have the following effects:
Amnesty under Proclamation 1377 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.
The grant of amnesty shall restore the grantee’s civil and political rights lost or suspended by virtue of conviction for crime/s covered thereby.
Unless detained pursuant to law, a person who applies for amnesty shall be issued a Safe Conduct Pass by the Provincial or City Peace and Order Council Amnesty Center (P/CPOC-Acs). The Safe Conduct Pass shall provide immunity from warrantless arrests for offenses covered under this Proclamation.
Applicants with firearms are required to turn over their firearms within 30 days from their filing of application for amnesty without incurring liability for illegal possession thereof. “Thereafter, illegal possession of firearms by any applicant or amnesty grantee shall be a ground for denial or revocation of the amnesty, without prejudice to legal prosecution for such illegal possession,” the proclamation said.
Not insisting on disarmament was of course the big mistake the government made when it signed a peace accord with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996, when it did not insist on a disarmament by the Moro rebels. In this area, there is still some policy confusion I think, because the Arroyo administration under Jess Dureza is not applying the same requirement of unconditional disarmament as part of "peace talks". I suppose that is why 57 Philippine soldiers have recently been killed by "our partners in the peace process."
The Proclamation requires Congressional approval, which process ought also to be used by the government to mobilize the local government units and Congressional leaders for a major effort at ending Asia longest running Maoist insurgency, really an armed nationwide extortion ring.