WITH the recent signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, of the protocol on the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and weapons that contains a provision on “confidence-building measures,” the government may eventually offer amnesty to separatist commanders, including those involved in the killing of 44 elite policemen in Maguindanao on January 25.
According to a well-placed source interviewed by The Manila Times, the “normalization” deal with the MILF shall compel President Benigno Aquino 3rd to grant pardon to convicted MILF commanders.
He said the protocol on the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) signed by both parties on January 29 provides for amnesty and pardon, which are “all legal forms of confidence-building measures [and]which shall be immediately undertaken as agreed upon in the annex on normalization by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) toward the speedy resolution of cases of persons charged with or convicted of crimes or offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”
“The protocol is already binding after it was signed. Now, the Mamasapano incident happened on January 25 and the document was signed on January 29, so that it clearly covers what happened to the SAF (Special Action Force),” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
He noted that Section 8 of the protocol states, “Any act that contravenes the agreement mentioned in the references and this protocol shall constitute a violation.”
The protocol was signed by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer for the government and Mohagher Iqbal for the MILF. The document stated that “the agreement shall come into force upon signature.”
Granting of amnesty and pardon would be crucial to the success of the peace process, the proponents agreed, as it would ensure “security and freedom of movement” for MILF commanders and fighters who will undergo the stringent process of decommissioning and “disarmament.”
It will also “guarantee an environment free of fear and intimidation,” the document said.
It was not immediately known how many MILF combatants may qualify for amnesty and how many are still facing charges or have already been convicted for related crimes.
The Times sought comment from Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. but the official replied that he would still need to verify with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Subsequently, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles is yet to respond to a similar query.
Commission on Human Right Chairman Etta Rosales also on Thursday said the peace process between the government and the MILF should be a factor in determining sanctions once it is proven that the policemen killed in the January 25 Mamasapano clash were mutilated.
In an interview with GMA News TV’s “News To Go,” Rosales noted that the penalty for the alleged overkill “will have to be brought up in the context of the peace agreement.”
“Remember there is the decommissioning process, which is a positive position right now… [because]at least it means that cooperation is ongoing between the MILF and the government. It’s important that we have that,” she said.
“It’s in that context that we should be able to at least ensure that what’s going on in the ground, what has to be done in the ground, should be complied with,” Rosales added.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said they have identified five MILF commanders who could be charged for the Mamasapano massacre, where 44 police commandos died.
The five are Sakaria Goma, Wahid Tundok, Ustdads Nanan, Abdurahman Upan and Sansudin Pakinda.
Tundok was arrested last year for a separate offense but was later released after the MILF leadership protested.
The Justice department has also identified five former MILF members who are now with the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who may be charged for the carnage. They are Abe Sali Usop, Badrudin Mamad, Misuari Mamalangkay, Sukarno Sapal, Hasan Indal, Abu Misri, Toks Akad and a certain Kadialen.
In a previous interview, Deles said the amnesty will require congressional approval and will cover only MILF fighters, not the BIFF.
Amnesty and pardon, she explained, are a vital part of the normalization annex, which is the final component of the peace accord.
Naguib Sinarimbo, a member of the technical working group on the Bangsamoro bill and United Nations consultant, explained in a series of workshops that amnesty and pardon are crucial to the peace process.
“There can be no normalization if we continue to have people, very senior MILF fighters facing charges in court. Part of confidence-building measures is to address that one. The way to go is amnesty and pardon,” Sinarimbo, a former executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), explained.