By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The National Amnesty Commission (NAC) embarks on finalizing in two months the draft of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Amnesty Program for former rebels.
The timeline commenced with the convening of the NAC at the PICC in Pasay City on Nov. 15. The meeting was the second time for the NAC since its formation on Feb. 5, 2021 by virtue of Executive Order No. 125, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).
“We recognize (the) urgency to finish all the (IRR-related) documents,” OPAPRU Executive Director Wilben Mayor, announced at the meeting.
Mayor, a lawyer heading the Amnesty Board secretariat, added: “There is just a limited time on the application that we want to prepare the proclamation to extend the application period of the Amnesty Program of the government, because [based on the] reality on ground, we have only two months to submit these documents.”
The NAC is primarily tasked to receive and process applications for amnesty filed through the Local Amnesty Board (LAB).
Applications for amnesty are covered by Proclamation Nos. 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093, series of 2021, which former President Rodrigo Duterte issued in 2021 and were subsequently concurred with by the two chambers of Congress.
Such proclamations grant amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas / Revolutionary Proletarian Army / Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), and the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG), respectively, who committed crimes in furtherance of their political beliefs.
Proclamation No. 1093 for CTG members was thumbed down in the Senate, the OPAPRU said.
The drafting of the amnesty program’s IRR followed the recent completion of the organizational structure of the NAC, according to Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic, a Muslim lawyer and former national human rights official.
Marohomsalic said such a structure would precede the formation of the mechanism in the amnesty grant as a springboard to promoting peace.
“The primary occupation of every person is peace. The motherhood of all virtues is peace. Everything follows after peace,” Marohomsalic stressed.
For Jamar Kulayan, another NAC lawyer-Commissioner, granting amnesty is permissible in universal religions such as Islam and will be crucial in the national government’s efforts to gain the trust and confidence of former rebels.
Former rebels’ act of applying for amnesty “is already an indication of their willingness to go back to the folds of the law and become productive members of our society,” Kulayan said, adding that granting amnesty would give more meaning to the Bangsamoro revolutionary fronts’ peace deals with the government.
Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the OPAPRU is hastening the crafting of documents such as the IRR of the amnesty proclamation with the hope for Presidential approval before the Senate takes a holiday break.
“What we do right now is we are currently fast-tracking these documents because we believe that amnesty will bring back political and civil liberty and rights to the former combatants. I myself can attest to that,” Galvez said.
“I was among those who were granted amnesty during former President Fidel Ramos’ administration. Had I not been given that pardon, I wouldn’t be where I am now — in a much better place, helping the nation in the peace process. That is the same thing we want to see in our brothers and sisters,” he added.
Once President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signs the proclamation extending the previous amnesty proclamations, the OPAPRU expects to receive over 50,000 applications for amnesty coming from former MILF and MNLF combatants.
The NAC meeting was also attended by Defense Assistant Secretary Erik Lawrence Dy, Justice Assistant Secretary Majken Anika Gran-Ong, State Counsel Berlin Berba, and OPAPRU directors. (AGM)