Where did this “admit guilt” condition come from? Is P-Noy having second thoughts about granting amnesty or is he getting pressure from right-wing elements in the military? What if the “rebels” refused to admit guilt, would P-Noy send them back to detention? — PERRY DIAZ
BY VICTOR REYES
Rebs’ lawyer: Rules makers were more popish than pope
MILITARY and police rebels who will avail themselves of an amnesty grant would have to admit guilt for involvement in the three attempts to overthrow the administration of former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the amnesty proclamation issued by President Aquino last month, which were prepared by a committee of the Department of Defense, also showed that the rebels would also have to recant all statements that are contrary to their admission of guilt and participation.
“No application shall likewise be approved without a recantation of all previous statements, if any, that are inconsistent with such express admission of actual involvement/participation and guilt,” the five-page IRR said.
Marines Col. Ariel Querubin, one of the leaders of the February 2006 plot to overthrow the Arroyo government, said the 1995 amnesty granted by the Ramos administration to him and other rebel soldiers involved in the failed coups in the 1980s did not require them to admit guilt.
Querubin said that under the new amnesty proclamation, they thought they would be asked merely to admit their participation in the uprisings in the past administration.
He said it is the court that should establish guilt.
“It (admission of guilt) was not included in the 1995 amnesty. It was just an admission of your participation. The guilt was merely implied,” he said.
Querubin said the problem in admitting the guilt is when their applications are denied.
“It will have no effect unless they will deny it (application). Your case will be prejudiced. If you apply, admit guilt and then all of the sudden, they deny you, you will be prejudice in your case. That will be the only effect,” said Querubin.
Asked if admitting guilt is tantamount to admitting they were wrong in standing up against a government they perceived to be corrupt and which allegedly cheated in the 2004 elections, Querubin said: “If it’s really an offense to rebel against a corrupt government, then I’m guilty.”
The amnesty proclamation, Presidential Proclamation No. 75, was issued on November 24 and has been concurred in by Congress.
Trixie Angeles, lawyer of number of officers qualified for amnesty, said she finds harsh the provision requiring admission of guilt.
“There seems to be a grave abuse of discretion (by the DND) because it is not stated in Proclamation No. 75 that there should be admission of guilt. If the President intended that, it should have been made clear in the legislation itself,” said Angeles.
“By admitting guilt, it means that you are saying that it (actuation) was wrong and by saying that it was wrong, it’s like you are exonerating GMA (Arroyo). For me, it’s not acceptable at the moment,” said Angeles.
On one of her clients, Oakwood mutiny leader Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, she said, “It’s up to Capt. Faeldon to decide if that is acceptable although he already indicated that it’s hard to accept exonerating GMA…By compelling them to admit guilt, it will be appear that GMA is being exonerated.”
Angeles is also representing former Scout Ranger operations officer Maj. Jason Aquino who is linked to the February 2006 plot.
Angeles said Aquino will not be availing himself of the amnesty, citing as among reasons the prohibition on return to service.
Angeles said it is Aquino’s belief that they are being treated by the administration as an enemy. “First of all, they will have to admit guilt and they will be separated from the service even if they are not yet guilty,” she said.
“We are not the enemy. GMA is the common enemy before…Why are they being treated with suspicion and with rejection? There should be no negative effect on the ones that are being given amnesty. It’s supposed to be peace and reconciliation…We are supposed to be on the same side,” she said.
Angeles said that if the other officers and men who will apply for the amnesty will admit their guilt, this would have no bearing on Maj. Aquino when the trial against him before the military tribunal continues.
“It will apply only to their particular cases. It doesn’t mean (it will affect Maj. Aquino’s case)…It will not affect Maj. Aquino or his case. It will not interlock with Jason Aquino so there will be no effect,” said Angeles.
The five-page IRR said, “No application shall be approved without an express admission by the applicant of actual involvement/participation with, in relation or incident to the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, the February 2006 Marines Stand-off and/or the November 29, 2007 Peninsula Manila Hotel Incident and that such involvement/participation constituted a violation of the 1987 Constitution, criminal laws and the Articles of War, as indicated in the application form.”
The defense department said the amnesty proclamation also covers all those involved in the two exercises in February 2006, including Army officers and personnel linked to the Feb. 24, 2006 plan to march to Edsa Shrine where they will supposedly withdraw support from Arroyo. The standoff at the Marines headquarters occurred on Feb. 26, 2006.
DND spokesman Eduardo Batac explained: “It (February 2006 Marines standoff) was given as the common name that was adopted in the papers also so that you can identify…It’s just a name to identify that particular incident…If you think that you are involved in that particular incident, then you should apply and check off that particular incident.”
A copy of the IRR, dated December 21, was shown to reporters by a defense official. It was signed by the members of the five-man DND committee headed by Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, and by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Attached to the IRR is a copy of a one-page form that would have to be filled up by the military rebels who want to avail themselves of the amnesty.
The application form requires the applicants to state their personal information, including their ranks and assignments, the status of their cases in civilian and military courts, and if they are detained or under custody.
The form also requires the applicant to say what incidents they were involved in, and a narration of his or her involvement or participation.
Above a box where the applicants are required to affix their signature, the applicants are asked to acknowledge that their involvement “constituted a violation of the 1987 Constitution, criminal laws and the Articles of War.”
The IRR says the amnesty grant will extinguish any criminal liability for the acts committed by the military rebels in connection with the three incidents “without prejudice to the grantee’s liability for injuries or damage caused to private individuals.
The grant of amnesty will also result in the restoration of civil and political rights or entitlement that may have been “suspended, lost, or adversely affected by virtue of any executive, administrative or criminal actions or proceedings against the grantee in connection with the subject incidents, including criminal conviction of any form, if any.”
It also provides for the reintegration or reenlistment of technical sergeants or senior police officers and lower ranking personnel upon the approval of their application. “However, they shall not be entitled to back pay during the time they have been discharged or suspended from the service or unable to perform their military or police duties,” it said.
Military and police officers and soldiers and master sergeants, and senior police officers 4 of the PNP are not entitled to remain in the service, or be reintegrated or reinstated.
“All AFP and PNP personnel granted amnesty who are not reintegrated or reinstated shall be entitled to retirement and separation benefits, if qualified under existing laws and regulations, as of the time of their separation, unless they have forfeited such retirement benefits for reasons other that the acts covered by Proclamation No. 75. Those reintegrated or reinstated shall be entitled to their retirement and separation benefit upon their actual retirement,” it added.
After processing, the committee will submit its recommendation to Gazmin for approval. Any decision can be appealed before the President within 10 days from the decision which will be immediately executory even if appealed.
Batac said the IRR will become final upon consultation with Malacañang. He said the DND committee will start accepting applications for amnesty upon publication of the IRR in two national newspapers.
Asked if the 1995 amnesty also called for the admission of guilt, Batac said: “There was nothing specific but the reason why this specific provision was addressed is because there are some personalities that were involved in previous moves like this.”
Batac was referring to Querubin and former Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.
Querubin and Lim are among officers facing court martial for mutiny.
“This time around, I think the legislators who wanted, who insisted on having this included…wanted to address the recurring military adventurism…The way it sounded, hopefully this will be the last amnesty that will be offered,” Batac said.
On the requirement to recant statements, Batac said this does not necessarily mean that the military rebels would have to take back the issues they raised against the previous administration.
“There is actually no provision here which will require you to specify what statements you made,” said Batac.
The issues raised by the military included corruption in the Arroyo administration and the illegitimacy of her administration brought about by the rigging of the results of the 2004 presidential elections.