PBBM orders immediate implementation of amnesty program for ex-rebels

By Darryl John Esguerra

April 4, 2024, 6:46 pm

<p>President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. <em>(File Photo)</em></p>

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (File Photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ordered the immediate implementation of the amnesty program for former rebels after the Senate concurred with his proclamations allowing the grant of amnesty to the former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and its front organizations.

In a Palace press briefing Thursday, National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año said the directive came during the 5th National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Executive Committee Meeting with the Chief Executive in Malacañang.

“The President has directed the immediate implementation of the Amnesty Program for the remaining members of the CPP-NPA-NDF since Congress has already concurred with the proclamation,” said Año, who serves as NTF-ELCAC chairman.

Last month, the Senate adopted resolutions concurring with the President’s proclamations granting amnesty to former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other separatist groups.

According to Año, an initial 1,500 former CPP-NPA members have already signified their intention to apply for the amnesty program.

Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, said the government is already organizing its 17 regional local amnesty boards which will process the applications for amnesty, adding that they are expecting an increase in the number of applications once the process has been ironed out and the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the program have been approved.

Galvez noted that they are eyeing to start granting amnesty to former rebels within the year.

For his part, NTF-ELCAC Executive Director and Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said the government’s halfway houses, where former rebels were deradicalized and taught necessary skills for their reintegration to mainstream society, will be converted into peace centers which are intended to be a “one-stop-shop” processing center to expedite and streamline the granting of amnesty.

VP Sara supportive of President's initiatives

Vice President Sara Duterte, who serves as NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson, attended the meeting and is “supportive” of the President’s initiatives against communist rebels, Año said.

“She’s supportive of the President. There was a very good discussion, particularly on the proposed roadmap and some actions that had to be taken. All along the meeting, the Vice President is there,” the retired military general said.

To recall, Duterte recently urged Marcos not to grant amnesty to former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, stressing that justice for the families of all the victims of the terrorist organization would not be served if the President’s proclamations were implemented.

Galvez said they have already explained to the Vice President, as well as to the members of Congress, that only those former members that have already surrendered are qualified for the amnesty program.

“It doesn’t include iyong mga nakakulong at iyong nandun pa sa itaas (It doesn’t include those who are jailed and are still in the mountains. Ibig sabihin (Meaning), the amnesty program only involves those who have already taken cognizance of their situation and went back to the fold of the law already,” he said.

Financial support for NTF-ELCAC

The President also directed the Cabinet to increase financial support to the NTF-ELCAC, particularly in implementing the Barangay Development Program (BDP) for the 846 beneficiary barangays this year, according to Año.

The BDP aims to bring development projects to conflict-affected communities. Since the program’s inception, some P30.4 billion has been allocated to benefit some 4,501 barangays nationwide that were cleared of NPA influence.

However, under the 2024 budget, only a total of P2.6 billion or P2.5 million per barangay was appropriated, far from the initial target of P10 million per barangay.

Año bared that Marcos, during the meeting, said the P2.5-million appropriation per barangay is small.

“We have to do more. We have to do better than that. We will try to reach P10M per barangay,” the President said as quoted by his National Security Adviser.

The President has also tasked the Department of Budget and Management to allow the 846 barangays to access the Financial Assistance to Local Government Units or FALGU to fund their farm-to-market roads and water system and sanitation projects this year.

“The Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management will crunch the numbers and work out the immediate implementation of the President’s directive,” Año said.

Expansive, extensive military ops vs. insurgents

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner said deadlines have been given to ground commanders to stomp out the remaining weakened guerilla fronts.

“Nagbigay tayo ng mga targets sa mga units natin kaya kung mapapansin niyo ay halos everyday ay nagkakaroon ng armed encounter not just between the AFP and the NPA but also with the local terrorist groups (We have given targets to our units so if you notice, almost every day there is an armed encounter not just between the AFP and the NPA but also with the local terrorist groups),” Brawner said.

“We have launched an expansive and intensive military operations against all of these threat groups,” he added. (PNA)