Political detainees as well as human rights groups and lawyers slammed as “prank” the Rodrigo Duterte government’s offer of amnesty to Leftist political prisoners, designed to prevent future peace negotiations from happening.
In a statement read in a recent online forum, six political prisoners condemned Proclamation 1093 offering amnesty to suspected and convicted Leftist rebels as an instrument of “continuing oppression.”
“Proclamation 1093 will not provide genuine amnesty. This cannot be the means for the release of political prisoners,” detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Reynante Gamara and Adelberto Silva said.
President Duterte signed last February 16 proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093 granting amnesty to suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) and “Communist Terrorist Group” members, respectively.
The House of Representatives concurred under its Concurrent Resolution No. 15 approved last May 19, but the Senate has yet to react to the edicts.
In a statement, Kapatid said that while political prisoners are not closing the door to a grant of amnesty, it is “…totally unjust that those foisted with false charges will own up to crimes they did not commit just to be able to leave prison.”
Kapatid said that for the political prisoners, Proclamation 1093 that refers to Leftist rebels is “fake” and a “trap” because:
1. Amnesty will be granted only to “rebels” who had surrendered or those referred to as “rebel returnees;”
2. It will not be granted to most political prisoners who were arrested, detained, charged with or convicted of trumped-up criminal charges since they did not surrender;
3. It will not cover those who have been proscribed and charged and convicted under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;
4. It puts the burden on political prisoners to prove that the crimes they supposedly committed were in furtherance of their political beliefs; and
5. The applicant must admit, in writing and under oath, their guilt on charges they are criminally liable for although the charges are falsified.
Kapatid said the political prisoners also condemned the use of the term “communist terrorist group” to “disparage and degrade the political standing” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The Duterte government has designated the three revolutionary organizations as terrorists in separate proclamations in 2017 and this year.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said Proclamation 1093’s intention is suspect for its description of its supposed beneficiaries.
“[T]he premise, framework, and implication of the use of the term ‘communist terrorist group’ render this kind of amnesty patently objectionable and unacceptable, legally and politically,” Olalia said.
“It is practically an institutionalized self-flagellation and it demeans political prisoners, using the dangle of inchoate freedom and the seduction of material bribery,” the human rights lawyer said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate noted that the amnesty being offered to Leftists are unlike those offered to the MILF, MNLF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB that were outcomes of peace agreements.
“[W]e should remember that this regime ended the peace negotiations. The amnesty is in fact based on Executive Order No. 70 – the government order which ended peace negotiations, justified imprisonment of activists, and paved the way for killing human rights defenders,” the legislator noted.
“The government said that it will no longer engage with peace negotiations but they are saying now that localized peace negotiations were held for former rebels to be granted amnesty. This amnesty proclamation is a ploy to totally prevent peace talks from transpiring,” Zarate, also a human rights lawyer, added.
The six detained NDFP peace consultants said they insist on “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”
“General amnesty means it covers all political prisoners and other political offenders according to a pre-screened list. Unconditional amnesty means no preconditions will be imposed on political prisoners before they are set free. Omnibus amnesty means it will cover all court cases of political prisoners,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)