PASAY CITY – Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., underscored on Tuesday, February 6, 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 during a hearing called for by the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace Unification and Reconciliation.

He emphasized that amnesty “will be the key to building a better and brighter future for themselves and their families and their communities.”

Galvez 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 to do 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.

Transformative power of amnesty

Galvez shared that the issue of amnesty is close to his heart, saying, “I was once a rebel soldier.” He was granted amnesty during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos for his involvement in the 1989 coup attempt.

“It was because of the visionary leadership of President Ramos that yours truly, together with other rebel soldiers like myself, more than 1,000 of us, regained our freedom,” he said.

Galvez said he and his co-officers were not only forgiven by the State, but also reinstated in the Armed Forces of the Philippines which provided them with “a chance to rebuild their lives” and continue their career in public service after their retirement in the military, demonstrating the “transformative power of amnesty.”

Amnesty, a step in the right direction

According to Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, the public hearing was called “in accordance with the government’s commitment to the attainment of the comprehensive and lasting peace.”

“Granting amnesty is a step in the right direction of what has been a long, historic journey of the peaceful resolution of armed conflict,” Estrada said.

For his part, Sen. Raffy Tulfo said the “first step to lasting peace is forgiveness, and I’m all for this. I’m in support of the peace process. I’m in support of healing our country. Amnesty will give a fresh start for our dear rebels.”

“This isn’t just for the rebels but for the nation also. It allows our nation to be at peace from within. This amnesty will definitely benefit everyone,” Tulfo added.

Defense Sec. Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. who was represented by Undersecretary Angelito M. De Leon, expressed his full support to the government’s amnesty program, saying that it is a, “testament to the commitment of the Marcos administration to sustaining our gains in our internal security and stability.”

“We are fully behind the government’s concerted efforts to advance the reconciliation and healing from the armed conflicts that have divided our nation for far too long,” Teodoro said.

For his part, National Security Adviser Sec. Eduardo Año, who was represented by Deputy Director General Nestor C. Herico, affirmed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s amnesty proclamations are a “strong indication of the solidarity of the current administration in pursuit for lasting peace and national security.

Amnesty proclamations

On November 22, 2023, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. issued Proclamation Nos. 403, 404, 405, and 404 granting amnesty to the 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.

Following this issuance, the House of Representatives, on December 15 the same year, approved four House Concurrent Resolutions (HCR) that granted amnesty to the members of the aforementioned 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 for Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC), Local Peace Engagement (LPE) framework, Normalization Program under the Comprehensive Agreement on 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.

Eligibility for amnesty

Those who may file for amnesty include any member of the MILF, MNLF, RPMP-RPA/ABB or the former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who have committed any act or omission in pursuit of 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 folds of the law.

The mere membership of an individual to an organization such as the MILF is not sufficient to qualify him or her for amnesty. The application for amnesty must specifically state the acts that were committed and are covered by the said amnesty proclamations. ###