Aquino signs proclamation giving amnesty to 'mutineers'
"I signed it (the proclamation) yesterday (Monday)," Aquino said in a chance interview on Tuesday morning.
Proclamation No. 50 grants amnesty to all active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and their supporters, who committed acts or omissions punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War or other special laws related to the following:
The approval of both chambers of Congress, however, is needed before Proclamation 50 could take effect, Aquino said.
"The process is there's a proclamation, which needs concurrence by both chambers of of Congress, then it becomes a law," the president said.
The Department of National Defense (DND) would then process the applications for amnesty when the proclamation becomes a law.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacañang that the amnesty would cover more than 300 soldiers who participated in the three incidents.
Aside from Trillanes, it would cover Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim. Lim ran under the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party, the President's political party, but lost.
Aquino granted amnesty as a show of reconciliation with all fronts since the government is pursuing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People's Army.
Lacierda said the amnesty to mutineers does not mean the government is encouraging or tolerating military adventurism.
"You cannot conclude that the president favors military adventurism. He's the commander-in-chief. This is a position he has taken based on his policy of pursuing a policy of reconciliation not only with the enemies of the state but also with the soldiers who have shed their blood," he said.
Lacierda noted that Proclamation No. 50 only allows enlisted personnel, and not military officers, who were part of the three incidents to be reinstated into the service.
"There's a distinction between the enlisted personnnel and officers. Enlisted officers obviously sumusunod lang sila sa utos ng kanilang mga opisyales. The officers are not entitled to reintegration or reinstatement. Once they are granted amnesty they can no longer go back to the service so this will not further encourage military adventurism," he said.
Lacierda did not say categorically whether the amnesty means Aquino believes in the causes taken up by the soldiers against the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
However, he noted that Aquino himself previously stated his personal opinion that the coup'd etat case against Trillanes should not have prospered because Trillanes led the "mutiny" in a hotel, which is not listed in the venues for a coup d'etat in the Revised Penal Code.
Trillanes, a former Navy official, is facing charges before military and civilian courts for his participation in two attempts to overthrow the Arroyo administration.
No need to wait for promulgation
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa said in the same press briefing that the soldiers do not have to wait for the promulgation of the cases against them before they are granted amnesty.
Lacierda, also a lawyer, affirmed this, saying the amnesty "extinguishes criminal liability." It also restores the soldiers' civil and political rights, including the right to vote, run for the elections, and be elected, he said.
"Amnesty looks backwards and puts into oblivion the offense itself. That's the idea in an amnesty proclamation," Lacierda said.
Under Proclamation No. 5, the DND will receive and process applications for amnesty. Applications should be filed under oath within 90 days following the date of publication of the proclamation in two newspapers of general circulation.
The granting of amnesty will restore all civil and political rights or entitlement that may have been "suspended, lost or adversely affected by virtue of ant executive action and/or administrative criminal action or proceedings lodged against the grantee in connection with the subject incidents, including criminal conviction or any form, if any."
The amnesty will also reinstate the right of AFP personnel to retirement and separation benefits, if they are so qualified under existing laws and regulations at the time of the commission of the acts that were extended amnesty.
If approved by Congress, the proclamation would pave the way for the release of detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Trillanes, a former Navy official, is facing charges before military and civilian courts for participating in two attempts to overthrow the Arroyo administration.
Almost a sure thing
Meanwhile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday "amnesty is almost a sure thing for the mutineers."
In an interview on dzBB, Belmonte said it is time for soldiers of the Magdalo group to move on. These soldiers protested against the alleged corruption under the Arroyo administration.
"Malakas, it's almost sure na ma-approve (The chances are high it will be approved. It's almost a sure thing)," Belmonte said.
However, many members of the Magdalo group are no longer interested to return to military service.
Radio dzBB's Rowena Salvacion reported that Lt. James Layug said he and many of his fellow Magdalo members want to move on with their lives. Layug participated in the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny led by Trillanes.
Adventurism a thing of the past
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it respects Aquino's decision and that none of its leaders are objecting to it.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta expressed hope that the amnesty, along with his administration's promise to give priority to the military, would appease other soldiers who might still be disgruntled.
"We can say that military adventurism may be a thing of the past... Since the 1980s there has been a lot of changes, innovations in the organization, and at this point we can truly say that your Armed Forces is professional," he said.
"We feel that at this point, we have to move on. We can say that most of these military personnel have already given their time in detention so the decision is to give them amnesty," he added.
According to him, once their amnesty is approved by Congress and processed by the DND, the accused soldiers who had already retired could still get their corresponding benefits and allowances.
Free the others, too
Meanwhile, the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Aquino should likewise grant amnesty to other political detainees, including the so-called "Morong 43," health workers who were arrested in February in Morong, Rizal.
"It is our hope that the president will also undertake positive steps in addressing the plight of some 388 political prisoners, including the Morong 43. The Department of Justice has submitted to Aquino its recommendations on the 43 detained health workers," Bayan said in a statement. — with Sophie Dedace, Mark Merueñas/LBG/VVP/HS, GMANews.TV