“Lasting peace and sustained development are impossible in a situation where armed rebels and government troops are lunging at each other’s throats in the countryside”
What better way for the Marcos administration to walk the talk and demonstrate its commitment to “unity” that it raised as its overarching theme during the recent electoral campaign than to give even the perceived “enemies of the state” the chance to rejoin mainstream society through a general amnesty?
Take it from someone who’s gone through the whole rigmarole of fighting the government and then seeking pardon for his decision to take part in a coup d’etat against the Cory Aquino administration in 1989.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. is pushing for the grant of amnesty for communist and Moro rebels through the National Amnesty Commission (NAC) that will process applications for amnesty.
He cited the late former President Fidel V. Ramos who pursued peace with various rebel groups, including soldiers who participated in numerous coup attempts against the Cory Aquino.
“I will forever be grateful to FVR because he gave me and my fellow officers a second chance in life. It was through that amnesty proclamation that I was able to revive my military service,” said Galvez, who later became chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“With the creation of the NAC, we hope to provide former rebels with an opportunity to fully reintegrate themselves into mainstream society as peaceful, productive, and law-abiding individuals… More importantly, the national government would like to send a clear and strong message that through the grant of amnesty, it is determined to address the roots of the armed conflict in the country and provide a better life for former combatants,” he added.
The seven-member NAC was created by the Duterte administration through Executive Order 125 issued in February 2021.
Duterte also issued Presidential Proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092, and 1093 which granted amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara-Paduano Group now known as Kapatiran, and the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), respectively, who committed crimes in the course of their armed struggle.
The House of Representatives concurred with the proclamations but the Senate withheld concurrence on the grant of amnesty for communist rebels.
It’s not just the Presidential Peace Adviser who is in favor of amnesty to rebels.
Even the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), which figured in controversial Red-tagging of various legal organizations identified with the mainstream Left during the previous administration, is also recommending that amnesty be offered to the CPP-NPA-NDF.
According to National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos, “the NTF-Elcac’s efforts to ensure peace and development for all Filipinos will continue.”
A general amnesty would show in no uncertain terms that the government is sincere in its policy of national reconciliation and unity and reaching out to those who have taken up arms against the government.
The grant of amnesty to all political offenders—including those who have been charged with illegal possession of firearms and other common crimes in furtherance of rebellion—could help in putting an end to the 54-year-old armed rebellion that has already claimed the lives of many Filipinos on both sides and torn civil society apart.
We understand that there are more than 400 political prisoners convicted of common crimes such as murder now languishing behind bars in the New Bilibid Prison and other detention facilities.
Releasing them through amnesty would send the message that the government is willing to bend over backwards and give them a new lease on life.
We have no illusion that amnesty by itself would lead to the cessation of armed hostilities.
Amnesty should be accompanied by a genuine program of sweeping reforms, including agrarian reform, and an equally determined campaign to stamp out corruption.
In other words, amnesty should spark a common effort on both sides to work towards peace based on the resolution of political, economic and social problems faced by the nation.
Amnesty may be opposed by the military, but granting amnesty is a political decision that must be made by the civilian government itself.
The tougher challenge lies, however, in convincing the rebels themselves that the government is sincere in implementing thoroughgoing reforms.
Lasting peace and sustained development are impossible in a situation where armed rebels and government troops are lunging at each other’s throats in the countryside.
The new government would be taking a big risk if it goes ahead and proclaims an unconditional amnesty for rebel groups. But this could well be the risk that must be taken if the nation is to heal the wounds of war and to move forward.
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