QUEZON CITY—The government (GRP) panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front (NDF) upheld its commitment in facilitating the issuance of an amnesty proclamation and the release of detained communist rebels on Wednesday, December 7, during the Congressional hearing on the proposed amnesty measure.

Panel members Rene Sarmiento and Angela Librado-Trinidad highlighted the efforts being exerted by the government in fulfilling its obligation to the GRP-NDF peace process to the members of the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity of the House of Representatives.

Librado-Trinidad underscored that both parties agreed in their joint statements last August 26 and October 9 that the GRP panel will recommend to President Rodrigo R. Duterte the release of detainees based on humanitarian grounds and the promulgation of an amnesty proclamation.

“The GRP already made the initiatives after the August 26 talks. We amended the guidelines of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, and Pardon (PCBReP), which will be the platform on the release of detainees based on humanitarian grounds. We already drafted the amnesty proclamation and submitted it to the president last September,” Librado-Trinidad explained.

The new rules of the PCBReP will now cover the commission of the crime that took place on or before July 1 this year; while, the amnesty proclamation is already being reviewed by the Office of the President.

Librado-Trinidad also updated the legislators on the status of the prisoners to be released based on humanitarian grounds.

“When we say humanitarian grounds, these are prisoners which are categorized either as sickly, elderly, or those who have been detained for a long period of time, and women,” she clarified.

“The panels have been collating all the information with respect to this effort so that a substantial number of prisoners will be released before we resume our talks in January next year,” Librado-Trinidad added.

Last December 2, President Duterte granted presidential pardon to four communist rebels convicted of murder and kidnapping who have long been recommended for pardon but not acted upon by the previous administration.

“President Duterte never abandons his position that he will grant amnesty and on the release of the detainees,” Librado-Trinidad stated.

House peace panel tackles amnesty bill

Meanwhile, the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity started its deliberations on the amnesty bill submitted by Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the house resolutions calling for the immediate releases of prisoners.

Arroyo, who is also the House deputy speaker, filed House Bill No. 490 seeks to grant amnesty for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/NDF and other individuals involved in past political conflicts.

Sarmiento lauded the members of the Lower House for proactively initiating an amnesty proclamation for the rebels.

Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the granting of amnesty is lodged to the President with the concurrence of both chambers of Congress.

“There is no prohibition in the Constitution that says Congress cannot initiate an amnesty measure,” Sarmiento, who is also one of the framers of the Constitution, underlined.

“There is always reference to Congress in so far as the amnesty is concerned. In other words, we will listen to Congress and seek their recommendations. This is not setting aside the role of Congress when amnesty proclamation is concerned,” he added.

For her part, Tawi-Tawi Representative and committee chairperson Ruby Sahali assured the government panel to hastily work on the proposed amnesty measure.

“I really wanted this masterpiece to be the legacy for the 17th Congress,” Sahali pointed out.