PBBM grants amnesty to ex-rebels

By Priam Nepomuceno and Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

November 24, 2023, 9:17 am Updated on November 24, 2023, 9:51 pm

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has granted amnesty to former New People’s Army rebels and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB).

Marcos issued Proclamations 403, 404, 405, and 406 on Nov. 22 for the granting of the amnesty to rebels and insurgents to encourage them to return to the fold of the law, as part of the administration’s comprehensive peace initiatives.

Under Proclamation 403, Marcos granted amnesty to the members of the RPMP-RPA-ABB who have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code and special penal laws, specifically those committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws.

Marcos also issued Proclamation 404 granting amnesty to the former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) or their front organizations who have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code and Special Penal laws in furtherance of their political beliefs.

He also issued Proclamations 405 and 406, granting amnesty to the members of the MILF and MNLF, respectively, who have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code and Special Penal Laws to advance to political their beliefs.

Based on the proclamations, the clause "crimes committed in pursuit of a political belief” shall include, but shall not be limited to, acts and omissions performed or undertaken as part of a plan, 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.

Amnesty is granted to rebels who committed crimes whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws, including but not limited to rebellion or insurrection; conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion or insurrection; disloyalty of public officers or employees; and inciting to rebellion or insurrection.

Other offenses include sedition; conspiracy to commit sedition; and inciting to sedition; illegal assembly; illegal association; direct assault; indirect assault; resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person; tumults and other disturbances of public order; unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances; and alarms and scandals.

Also covered are illegal possession of firearms, ammunition or explosives, provided that these crimes or offense were committed in furtherance of, incident to, or in connection with the crimes of rebellion or insurrection; and those charged, detained or convicted of common crimes but who can establish by substantial evidence that they have actually committed said crimes in pursuit of political beliefs.

The proclamations, however, shall not cover kidnap for ransom, massacre, rape, terrorism, crimes committed against chastity as defined in the Revised Penal Code, crimes committed for personal ends, violation of Republic Act (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, grave violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances, and other gross violations of human rights.

Any rebel who has committed any act or omission in pursuit of political belief, including those detained, charged, or convicted for such acts or omissions, may file an application for amnesty, provided that the crime for which it may be granted must have been committed prior to the issuance of the proclamations.

A person who has already been granted amnesty under previous amnesty proclamations will no longer qualify to apply.

An applicant must admit guilt of the offense for which he is criminally liable and turn over whatever firearms, weapons, and/or explosives in his possession upon application for amnesty.

The filing of an application shall not ipso facto (by the fact itself) result in a grant of amnesty, according to the proclamations.

“Applicants who are found qualified, upon due deliberation of the commission created for this purpose and approved by the President, shall be issued the corresponding Certificate of Amnesty,” the proclamations read.

National Amnesty Commission

Marcos also signed on Nov. 22 Executive Order (EO) No. 47, amending EO 125 issued in 2021 to amend and update the functions of the National Amnesty Commission (NAC) to cover the processing of the applications for amnesty under the new proclamations.

Under EO 125, the NAC was created with the mandate to receive and process applications for amnesty under Proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092, and 1093 also issued in 2021.

“There is hereby created the National Amnesty Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission, which shall be primarily tasked with receiving and processing applications for amnesty and determining whether the applicants are entitled to amnesty under Proclamation Nos. 403, 404, 405 and 406,” EO 47, which takes effect immediately, said.

The commission created under EO 125 “shall continue to exist and will be dissolved upon completion of its mandate or as may be determined by the President,” according to EO 47.

Under EO 47, the NAC will utilize existing budgetary and funding sources from available funds and other funds as identified by the Department of Budget and Management.

For the succeeding years, the funding requirements of the commission will be included in its budget proposal.

Bridge toward healing

In a statement Friday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) said the measure serves as a bridge toward healing and reintegration for individuals who once stood on opposing sides of armed conflict.

"In issuing these Amnesty Proclamations, the President recognizes the complexity of our nation's history and the diverse narratives that have shaped it. The amnesty initiative seeks to weave together the threads of justice, reconciliation, understanding, unity, and progress, transcending past grievances towards a shared vision of a unified and peaceful Philippines," NTF ELCAC executive director Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

He also assured that the task force is committed to expediting the implementation of the amnesty grants.

Torres also thanked the President for always "walking the talk with a clear vision rooted in the principles of reconciliation and unity".

He also called on members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (RPMP) to give up the armed struggle and return to the fold of the law and grab this opportunity to reunite with their families, loved ones, and communities and become productive members of society.

“Let us move forward together, transcending past conflicts and differences, towards a future where peace reigns supreme. Our collective efforts today lay the groundwork for a more cohesive and prosperous Philippines tomorrow,” he added. 

The Philippine National Police (PNP) also lauded the President's move, describing it as a welcome development in the fight against insurgency.

"This will answer all the lingering questions on the fears of our brethren who are in the hinterlands and are still reluctant to leave because they fear that they would be arrested once they surface," PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Fajardo said the police force sees the move as the "final solution" in ending insurgency in the country.

She added this also proves the government's sincerity in embracing former insurgents who have returned to the fold of the law and giving them a chance to start new lives. (with report from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)