DAVAO CITY — In a groundbreaking move towards bringing genuine peace, social healing, and reconciliation in Mindanao and across the country, 15 former rebels (FRs) from Agusan del Norte applied for amnesty on Monday, June 3.

The said FRs are the first individuals to formally seek amnesty under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity’s (OPAPRU) Local Conflict Transformation – Field Implementation Support Unit (LCT-FISU) in Mindanao.

“We laud the efforts of our peace partners in Agusan del Norte for making this endeavor possible. This is the result of our series of engagements with the provincial local government units (PLGU), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the implementation of our Amnesty Program,” said OPAPRU LCT-FISU Mindanao Director Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña on Monday.

“For OPAPRU, this is a significant step in our efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao within the context of our Local Peace Engagement (LPE) initiatives with the CPP-NPA-NDF members,” Evangelista-Lapiña added.

The 15 ex-rebels who will avail of the Marcos administration’s Amnesty Program under Proclamation No. 404 are clients of the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center.

This peace center is managed by the PLGU of Agusan del Norte and serves as the central hub for processing all programs and services intended for former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

On Monday, Evangelista-Lapiña filed the ex-rebels’ amnesty applications, along with their case folders with the National Amnesty Commission’s (NAC) Local Amnesty Board (LAB) in Davao City.

The majority of those applying for amnesty are members of Indigenous People (IP) communities in Agusan del Norte.

According to Evangelista-Lapiña, each former rebel has 10 to 30 cases filed against him or her, on average.

The creation of their case folders are the result of a Case Folder and Amnesty Application Workshop held at the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center in the AFP’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, Brgy, Bancasi, Butuan City.

The workshop was conducted from May 28 to 31, 2024, by OPAPRU’s LCT-FISU Mindanao, and was participated in by personnel from the AFP, PNP, and CARAGA PLGUs.

The OPAPRU also endorsed the initial case folders that were gathered in 2023 to the various CARAGA PLGUs. Similar case folders and amnesty application form workshops will be rolled out to applicants by July 2024.

In April, this year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed the immediate implementation of the Amnesty Program for members of the CPP-NPA-NDF after the President’s Amnesty Proclamations were concurred by both houses of Congress.

For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said that he was “very pleased with the development, as this is a testament that the FRs are heeding the Marcos Administration’s clarion call for peace.”

“As the President had emphasized, peace is not just the absence of conflict but ‘creating a social order that values human dignity, improves lives, and promotes progress,’” Galvez said.

“This is the reason why government is focused on fostering a conducive environment wherein our brothers and sisters who were once engaged in armed struggle will be encouraged to return to the folds of the law and walk the path of peace,” he added.

The peace adviser likewise commended the PLGU of Agusan del Norte for fully supporting the Marcos Administration’s peacebuilding efforts, particularly its Amnesty Program which aims to help uplift and rebuild the lives of FRs and their families, as well as bring sustainable peace and development to their communities.

“Our PLGUs are the unsung heroes of the peace process. They are the ones who are working behind the scenes to ensure that FRs will have a chance to return to mainstream society, as peaceful, productive and law-abiding citizens,” Galvez said. ###