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House to send back amnesty proclamation to Palace

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives is expected to send the amnesty proclamation for soldiers who rebelled against the Arroyo administration back to Malacañang with amendments.   

During the second joint hearing on Proclamation 50 yesterday, the House committees on justice, and national defense and security maintained that admission of guilt and remorse for the political crime is prerequisite to granting amnesty.

Proclamation 50, issued by President Aquino, grants amnesty to soldiers who took part in the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny in Makati City, the February 2006 standoff by Marines in Fort Bonifacio, and the siege of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati on Nov. 29, 2007.

The committees approved the motion of Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga to create a small panel to insert the amendments to the document. 

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who attended the inquiry, said the Palace is amenable to amending the proclamation.

“I had occasion to meet the President and he is very willing to amend the proclamation as suggested or proposed by the committees,” Ochoa said.   

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House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said among the provisions that should be corrected is the effectivity clause stating the amnesty would be effective upon the signing of the President. The amnesty should be effective upon the concurrence of Congress. 

The proclamation also has vague provisions on the appeals process if an application for amnesty is rejected.  

“If the application is not granted (by the Department of National Defense), can the applicant appeal? If the application is granted, then can the parties opposing it appeal as well?” Lagman said.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the committee on national defense, also asked for clarification on the coverage of the proclamation.

Lawmakers were riled at the statements of former Army general Danilo Lim and former Marine colonel Ariel Querubin that they do not regret leading the mutinies against the Arroyo administration.

“I will always take pride in what I did and what my soldiers did,” Lim said.

The rebel soldiers were invoking the constitutional provisional stating that the Armed Forces is the protector of the state and the people.

Bacolod Rep. Anthony Golez noted that many of the soldiers who participated in the mutinies were “recidivists” given amnesties in the past for participating in coup attempts. 

During the hearings of the amnesty proclamation, Lim said the mutinies “were never for the sake of violence.”

Retired commodore Rex Robles, a member of the Feliciano Commission that investigated the Oakwood mutiny, said the coup attempts constitute tyranny. 

“When you intervene, is the country ready for your intervention? You become tyrannical because you want to force on the people your line of thinking. That’s dangerous,” he said. 

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