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Arroyo issues proclamation giving amnesty to Reds

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has issued a proclamation granting amnesty to communist rebels who wish to return to the fold of the law. A Malacañang statement said Proclamation No. 1377 grants amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and it’s armed wing, the 6,300-strong New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front, which groups the CPP-NPA and several other underground organizations, and other communist rebel groups. Mrs Arroyo signed the proclamation Thursday before she left for Sydney to attend the 15th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in Australia. The President said in the statement that the proclamation accepts rebels back into the fold of the law "through amnesty, and eventually providing them access to the government’s existing socio-economic services, are essential to attaining peace and reconciliation in the country." She added that the amnesty decree is part of the social integration program for former rebels as provided under Administrative Order No. 172 she issued on March 23, 2007. "There is an urgent need and expressed desire to extend amnesty to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups as an instrument of reconciliation, and as a path for their return to a peaceful, democratic, and pluralistic society," Mrs Arroyo said. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said certified copies of the proclamation have been transmitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for concurrence in accordance with the Constitution. Under the proclamation, amnesty shall be granted to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups 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. Crimes covered by the amnesty include rebellion and all other crimes in pursuit of political belief. 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. The initial amount needed to implement the proclamation shall be sourced from the Office of the President, and released to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). Regular funds shall be provided for its implementation in the succeeding years under the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial/city office shall receive the amnesty applications for processing by the P/CPOC. Other salient points of the Proclamation are: * Any member of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other communist rebel groups who has committed any act or omission in pursuit of political belief, referred to in Section 2, including those detained, charged or convicted for such acts or omission, may file an application for amnesty. * Crimes for which amnesty may be granted must have been committed on or before the date of effectivity of the Proclamation. * Those who have already been granted amnesty under previous amnesty proclamations shall no longer qualify for amnesty under Proclamation 1377. * Those who have been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction may benefit from a grant of amnesty by the restoration of applicants' civil or political rights only. * Persons who applied for amnesty under previous proclamations but whose applications were not considered for having been made outside the reglementary period for filing, may apply under this Proclamation. * The National Committee on Social Integration (NSCI) upon due deliberation, shall issue the corresponding Certificate of Amnesty to qualified applicants. The filing of an application herein shall not ipso facto result in a grant of amnesty. The grant of amnesty shall have the following effects: * Amnesty under Proclamation 1377 shall extinguish any criminal liability for acts committed in pursuit of political beliefs, without prejudice to the grantee's civil liability for injuries or damages caused to private persons. * The grant of amnesty shall restore the grantee's civil and political rights lost or suspended by virtue of conviction for crime/s covered thereby. * Unless detained pursuant to law, a person who applies for amnesty shall be issued a Safe Conduct Pass by the Provincial or City Peace and Order Council Amnesty Center (P/CPOC-Acs). The Safe Conduct Pass shall provide immunity from warrantless arrests for offenses covered under this Proclamation. Applicants with firearms are required to turn over their firearms within 30 days from their filing of application for amnesty without incurring liability for illegal possession. But after that, illegal possession of firearms by any applicant or amnesty grantee shall be a ground for denial or revocation of the amnesty. -GMANews.TV