OPAPRU: Amnesty key to better lives, opportunities for ex-rebels

By Priam Nepomuceno

February 7, 2024, 10:38 am

<p>OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. <em>(PNA photo by Avito Dalan)</em></p>

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday emphasized the importance of granting amnesty to members of revolutionary groups who have committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs.

“Amnesty does not only extinguish criminal liability for the acts committed by these former rebels. It creates a path toward their full transformation and enables them to return to mainstream society,” Galvez said in a statement.

During Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace Unification and Reconciliation, the government's peace adviser also said amnesty would be the key to building a better and brighter future for members of revolutionary groups, their families, and their communities.

Galvez also noted that despite the strong desire of members of these revolutionary groups to be productive citizens in their communities, the "looming threat of legal repercussions" limits them from doing so.

“They are torn between their desire to turn a new leaf, on one hand, and be held accountable for their political mistakes, on the other,” he said.

Galvez was among the rebel soldiers who were granted amnesty by the late president Fidel V. Ramos for his involvement in the 1989 coup attempt against the late president Corazon Aquino.

Galvez said he and his co-officers experienced the "transformative power of amnesty" as they were not only forgiven by the state but were also reinstated in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and were able to continue their career in public service after their retirement in the military.

On Nov. 22, 2023, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. issued Proclamation Nos. 403, 404, 405, and 404 granting amnesty to members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), respectively.

After this issuance, the House of Representatives on Dec. 15 last year approved four House Concurrent Resolutions (HCR) that granted amnesty to members of these revolutionary groups.

As contained under Section 19, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all members of Congress.

The granting of amnesty is also among the main confidence-building measures under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) local peace engagement framework, normalization program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), transformation program for MNLF members, as well as the clarificatory implementing document signed between the government and the RPMP-RPA-ABB or KAPATIRAN.

Those who may file for amnesty include any member of the MILF, MNLF, RPMP-RPA/ABB, or former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who have committed any act or omission in pursuit of their political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or Special Penal Laws.

This includes those detained, charged, or convicted for such acts or omissions.

“Former members/rebels” refers to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF or their front organizations who have decided to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

The application for amnesty must specifically state the acts that were committed and are covered by these amnesty proclamations. (PNA)