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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Senate adopts amnesty bill for 3k Red rebels

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Some 3,000 former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF)are expected to avail of the amnesty granted by Malacanang, said Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada on Thursday.

Voting 23-0, the upper chamber adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 20, giving the green light to the grant of amnesty to former CPP-NPA-NDF members who have committed crimes to further their political beliefs.

Citing data from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), Estrada said additional applicants may be expected from over 17,000 surrenderers and over 22,000 who withdrew support for the rebel group.

The Senate’s concurrence to President Marcos’ proclamations granting amnesty to the former rebels would expedite their normalization and reintegration into mainstream society, national peace adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez said.

“By giving amnesty, we are opening a window of opportunity for former rebels to reintegrate into mainstream society as peaceful and productive individuals,” Galvez noted in a statement.

“This, in itself, is an act of compassion and reconciliation that will allow the healing of wounds caused by armed conflict, and break downthe barriers of fear, animosity, and divisiveness among our people,” he added.

As chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense, Estrada called on the OPAPRU, the National Amnesty Commission, the Department of Justice, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of National Defense, and Philippine National Police (PNP) not to let go of the amnesty measures.

“Let’s all make sure that this amnesty program, together with the amnesty programs for the MILF, MNLF, and RPMP-RPA-ABB which were earlier approved by Congress, will be implemented fully and faithfully towards its objective of transforming lives and communities,” he said.

This would encourage former rebels and combatants to return to the fold and to participate in nation-building within the framework of peaceful and deliberative society, Estrada added.

Under Section 4 of Proclamation No. 404, the amnesty shall extinguish the rebels’ criminal liability for acts committed in pursuit of political beliefs and restore their civil and political rights suspended or lost by criminal conviction.

This, however, will not apply to those who have already been proscribed or those charged under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Estrada stressed.

It shall likewise not cover those who committed crimes such as kidnap for ransom, massacre, rape, terrorism, crimes committed against chastity, crimes committed for personal ends, violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, grave violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949, as well as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearances, and other gross violations of human rights.

On March 4, the Senate adopted Presidential Proclamations 403, 405 and 406 granting amnesty to former members of the Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), respectively.

The OPAPRU chief, meanwhile, said the National Amnesty Commission will soon issue the implementing rules and regulations of the national government’s amnesty program, which will begin its implementation by accepting applicants from the revolutionary groups.

Galvez added that the Senate’s move marks another significant milestone in the country’s continuing quest to achieve genuine and lasting peace.

He said amnesty is an invaluable instrument for social justice, as it upholds the dignity of former rebels who have laid down their arms and returned to the folds of the law.

Galvez also said the grant of amnesty sends a clear and strong message of hope, compassion, and reconciliation to those who wish to abandon armed struggle.

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