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PIA Press Release

Commentary: Forgiving the Unforgivable

Tacloban City (September 9) -- Recently, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation Number 1377 which is described as the latest step towards attaining peace and reconciliation in the country.

A peace process should be regarded as a collective act of contrition, where every member of the community accepts that he/she is also part of the conflict. The result must be the recognition of the rule of law as the only moral scenery for the resolution of conflicts.

Signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before leaving last Thursday for the 15th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Sydney, Under the proclamation, amnesty shall be granted to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups who shall file their application under oath with the NCSI and the provincial or city POC Amnesty Centers within six months from the proclamation's effectivity.

Amnesty is an "instrument of reconciliation," aside from being a "path for their (the communist rebels') return to a peaceful, democratic, and pluralistic society."

Reconciliation and peace could only be achieved when there is forgiveness. Amnesty is seen by many victims as forgiving the unforgivable.

In most analyses of forgiveness, three factors are frequently mentioned. First, forgiveness involves the suspension or overcoming of hostile feelings towards the wrongdoer.

Second, it involves or fosters reconciliation and restoration of relationships.

Third, forgiveness involves, in some sense, the removal or bracketing off of the wrong, or of the guilt created by the wrong - the wiping clean of the slate.

Can it be said that this is a matter of forgiveness, not only of reconciliation. The state might have sanctioned amnesty, but that does not necessarily mean that the victims will forgive and/or forget.

This is what the abyss between law and forgiveness looks like in societies that have been in conflict with themselves for so long. It is not to be close by mere political means, at least not by those means of the modern state - this is a matter for a different kind of democracy that is yet to come.

This recognition makes way for the strengthening of the state and the law. For democracy can and must incarnate the promise of justice - and it is in the hands of all stakeholders, the government, the rebel groups, their victims, to hasten the fulfillment of this promise, here and now. (PIA 8) [top]

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