The amnesty proclamation offered by President Rodrigo Duterte to what the administration calls former ‘communist terrorist group (CTG)’ rebels is a trap and has no possible advantages, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and Bayan Muna Partylist.

They took aim at the stipulations and provisions on “former rebels,” the “CTG” tagging, the counterinsurgency framework, the requirement of admission of guilt under oath, and the possibility that the amnesty can be later revoked while the admission of guilt under oath stays.

The groups hit how far this amnesty falls from the general, unconditional, omnibus amnesty that a successful conclusion of the peace talks could have produced.  

“Misleading at the very least, but truly deceptive,” was how NUPL President Atty. Edre Olalia described Duterte’s amnesty for ‘former CTG rebels.’

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the amnesty is offered to those who were not yet convicted of any crime, may not even be part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) or New People’s Army  (NPA) but must admit to being a former CTG rebel and renounce his/her activities in writing and under oath.

The lawyers also said that an amnesty applicant who was only charged, detained or convicted or common crimes need now to admit to these crimes and prove that these crimes were committed in furtherance of rebellion. The applicants have the burden to prove that they committed their crimes in furtherance of rebellion.

  • in furtherance of rebellion and would also have to implicate others, all that the applicant could name lest he/she be charged with perjury. ‘A lazy way of intelligence gathering,’ he described it.   

However, the amnesty application is not a shoo-in. It may be opposed, it may not be approved at all and the admission under oath will remain, explained the lawyers. The lawyers cited several cases of amnesty applications with several presidents ago that had the applicant admitting to crimes but their amnesty was not granted up to now.

The grant of amnesty may also be later revoked by the same or a different president, but the admission under oath will remain. All applications, testimonies, evidences are admissible in a proceeding where amnesty is an issue, explained Olalia.

The grant of amnesty essentially, or usually, extinguishes any criminal liability that a person has committed in pursuit of political beliefs, without prejudice to possible civil liabilities for damages and injuries.

“It is political seduction for a chance for freedom. However, the guarantee is written on water,” said Olalia.

The amnesty proclamation did not include those who have been charged with violations of the Human Security Act of 2007, those who have been proscribed as terrorists and those tagged as terrorists under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Challenges against the constitutionality of the “terror law” is still pending before the Supreme Court.

On February 5, Duterte issued Proclamation 1093 granting amnesty to CTG rebels who have committed crimes under the Revised Penal Code or Special Penal Laws in pursuit of their political beliefs.

Who is the CTG? Section 2 of the proclamation identified the CTG as the CPP, NPA, National Democratic Front of the Philippines and their “front organizations.”

Who are front organizations? If taking into context the Cordillera Regional Peace Order Council Resolution No. 04-2021 and 06-2021 or the “Dumanun Makitungtong”(visit and talk), these could be groups of “known left-leaning personalities and government, media, and other entities.” As rights group Karapatan noted on the Cordillera “political tokhang” resolution, this could mean anybody.

Apart from Proclamation 1093, the president also issued Proclamations 1090, 1091 and 1092 granting amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) respectively.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution allowed the president to grant amnesty with a concurrence of a majority of all members of Congress.

On May 19, 2021, the House of Representatives adopted on Second Reading House Concurrent Resolutions (HCR) 12, 13, 14, 15 concurring with Duterte’s amnesty proclamations for the MILF, MNLF, RPA-ABB and CTG respectively. The four concurrent resolutions were filed by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano. The adopted HCRs have been transmitted to the Senate.

The Makabayan bloc in the Lower House that included Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan Partylist voted yes to HCR 12, 13, 14 but voted no to HCR 15. They said that unlike the first three, the amnesty through Proclamation 1093 is not a product of peace negotiations.

The peace negotiations with those the Duterte administration tagged as CTG was stalled since 2017 when the president issued a unilateral termination of the talks and issued a terrorist tagging of its counterparts despite substantial progress on the second of four substantive agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms. From 2017 to 2017 and almost five rounds of peace talks, a common draft on agrarian reform and rural development was achieved. The amnesty proclamation, meanwhile, was supposed to form part of the conclusion of peace negotiations after the fourth substantive agenda on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces could be agreed upon.

The Makabayan bloc also explained that HCR 15 undermines the political nature of the communist armed struggle.

Zarate said the amnesty declaration of Duterte for ‘certain’ CTG rebels was premised on the “whole of nation approach” counter-insurgency program of the government or Executive Order No. 70 that created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the cancellation of the peace talks. This is now considered the peace policy of the administration.

However, he said, this would again bank on forcing or luring surrenderers or incentivizing “insurgency free barangays” declarations with P 20 million each, instead of addressing the root causes of more than five decades of civil war or armed struggle.

How successful would this current tact be? What is only known so far is that the armed struggle would go on so long as there is poverty, inequality and injustice in the country.

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