Carol Pagaduan-Araullo | On Amnesty and Other Intriguing Questions

Streetwise | BusinessWorld
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The debate on whether President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s amnesty proclamation for soldiers who had rebelled against the government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is justified begs for more clarity. A confirmed putschist, retired colonel Rex Robles, twitted Senator Joker Arroyo, a political ally of Mrs. Arroyo and President Corazon Aquino’s executive secretary, for the latter’s general amnesty of communist rebels when she assumed power from the dictator Marcos in 1986.

Mr. Robles reduced the issue to one of red-baiting. He implied that Mrs. Aquino’s policy on the communist-led rebellion was soft due to the influence of human rights lawyers like Sen. Arroyo. In contrast, Mr. Robles sees amnesty for military rebels more than justified because they were impelled by noble motives, i.e. the desire to rid the military and police establishments of corruption and to expose the Arroyo administration’s complicity if not instigation of wrongdoing.

Mr. Robles does a disservice to the cause of his boss, Senator Antonio Trillanes (the preeminent military officer accused in the alleged Oakwood Mutiny of 2003) by resorting to this low blow.

Sen. Arroyo is perfectly correct in reminding all and sundry: “That policy initiative was in recognition of the immense contribution of these armed groups to the downfall of President Marcos. They suffered casualties, death, wounded, hamletted, tortured, imprisoned without charges in the fight against martial rule.”

As for Trillanes and company, they were protesting corruption and other criminal activities by the top brass of the Philippine armed forces under their commander-in-chief, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mr. Trillanes’ victory in the 2007 elections is significant considering he campaigned while in detention charged with leading a coup d’état. Yet he convinced enough Filipino voters disgusted with the Macapagal-Arroyo regime that as senator he would act as a fiscalizer in government.

With the change of administration to one that ran on a platform clobbering corruption and other malfeasance in the previous regime, it stands to reason that Mr. Aquino would eventually grant amnesty to the rebel soldiers. The decision is a popular one except for loud protestations from the former president’s camp and legitimate questions about the timing of the presidential proclamation.

Criticisms that the amnesty will embolden future coups seem to be overtaken by sympathy for the rebel soldiers’ avowed cause. It has been pointed out and rightly so that military rebellion is here to stay so long as government misrule, and other social evils that urge soldiers to rebel, persist.

Sen. Arroyo, tongue in cheek, now uses the argument to oppose the amnesty saying that all other rebels can now rightfully demand amnesty for themselves as well.

He cites the infamous case of the 43 health professionals and community health workers arrested and detained on military claims that they were New People’s Army rebels undergoing training in bomb-making, collectively dubbed Morong 43.

But the national and international clamor for the release of the Morong 43 is not about pardoning political crimes. It is about rendering justice to innocent people wronged by their own government.

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