After hard-line drive vs Reds, GMA files bill on amnesty

Posted on July 28, 2016

IN LINE with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s “unilateral cease-fire” with the communist rebellion, a bill to grant the rebels amnesty was filed at the House of Representatives by a former president whose administration was noted in its time for its hard-line campaign against that movement.

House Bill No. 490, filed by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, seeks to grant amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) and other individuals and groups involved in past political conflicts. -- Raynan F. Javil

“Accepting rebels back into the folds of the law through amnesty, and eventually providing them access to the government’s existing socio-economic services are essential to attaining peace and reconciliation in the country,” Mrs. Arroyo said in the bill’s explanatory note.

The amnesty covers only those who committed the crime of rebellion and acts committed in pursuit of political beliefs. Crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping, use and trafficking of illegal drugs, and violations of international laws are not covered.

The bill also states only those who committed the said crimes on or before the effectivity of the law will be covered by the amnesty. Applicants for amnesty are also mandated to surrender their firearms within 30 days after their application.

Funds needed to implement the proposed law will be sourced from the Office of the President and released through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“An amnesty program is an integral component of the Duterte Government’s comprehensive peace efforts,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

During her almost decade-long presidency, Mrs. Arroyo’s critics had denounced what they called her “militarization campaign” particularly against the Left.

One of the leading enforcers of the campaign was the commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, retired general-turned-fugitive Jovito S. Palparan, Jr., who was notoriously referred to as “berdugo” (butcher).

Mr. Palparan was captured in a Manila apartment not far from Malacañang in 2014, after three years in hiding. A court ordered his arrest and that of three other Army officers in connection with the 2006 kidnapping of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. The two, who were allegedly abducted and brought to a farm in Hagonoy, Bulacan, have remained missing since.

It was also on Mrs. Arroyo’s watch that celebrated activist Jonas Burgos was kidnapped, allegedly by members of the Philippine Army. -- Raynan F. Javil