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PIA Press Release

Prosecutor says grant of amnesty to rebels fosters unity

TABUK CITY (14 September) -- The provincial prosecutor here believes a serious offer of reconciliation by the government to its political opponents is the best approach to unify the nation.

Provincial Prosecutor Atty. Bartolome Gamonnac said extending a reconciliatory hand to rebels through the grant of amnesty can be an effective tool to win their hearts thereby allowing them to join back the main stream society and work for peace and development and enjoy better lives.

The grant of amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front and other rebel groups is expected since the national reconciliation program is a continuing process, this official said.

"In any form of reconciliation like the amicable settlement of conflicts among tribes or neighbors, almost all confrontations ends with the offer of reconciliation through the traditional practice of peaceful dialogue, where victims forgives their offenders in order to preserve good neighborhood and brotherhood," Gamonnac said.

He said to foster national unity, amnesty should be granted to political offenders who shall file application under oath with the National Committee on Social Integration (NCSI) and the Provincial or City Peace and Order Council Amnesty Centers (P/CPOC-ACs) within six months from the effectivity of the proclamation.

It can be recalled that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1377 granting amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and other communist rebel groups in the country.

Section 2 of the proclamation provides that the amnesty "shall cover the crime of rebellion and all other crimes included therein, or incident thereto in pursuit of political belief as defined by jurisprudence, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws.

However, Gamonnac suggested that if ever an amnesty board is composed, a strict screening must ensue to avoid fake applicants who are only after the benefits of amnesty. Rebels should apply directly to a board, he said adding that the program must be thoroughly explained.

He expects that the amnesty will lessen the strength of political opposition. But he wants to see an amnesty wherein victims can also seek damages from government. He said there should also be a corresponding package for payment of victims of political crime.

He said the focus should be on the substance of the decree and not only counting on amnesty grantees. The program should not stop after the grant of amnesty but a development package be provided to rebel returnees in terms of livelihood projects to make them busy and not to think of returning to the mountains when they are idle and unproductive, he said.

Prosecutor Gamonnac called on members of the CPP-NPA-NDF to respond positively and come out to avail of the program.

Not covered by the proposed amnesty are crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping for ransom, use and trafficking of illegal drugs and other crimes for personal ends and violations of international law or convention and protocols, even if alleged to have been committed in pursuit of political beliefs. (PIA-Kalinga) [top]

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