Mr. President, distinguished colleagues:
Never in our history has our nation sought and demanded a ‘time of healing’ with much fervor and tenacity than we do today — healing from the health crisis which scarred our people; healing from the economic, social, and political distress that, by and large, spoiled our nation.
I rise before you today for a parallel cause: a chance to heal the open wounds brought by our endless battle for peace and unification; an opportune time to embrace back into society those who went beyond the folds of our laws in furtherance of their political beliefs and aspirations.
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues of this august chamber, pursuant to our Constitutional mandate of giving concurrence to the exercise of clemency powers of the President, I have the honor to report on the Senate floor the result of the public hearing conducted by the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, on the amnesties granted by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as embodied in Committee Reports 372, 373 and 374 recommending the adoption of House Concurrent Resolution Nos. 12, 13 and 14, respectively.
The aforementioned reports are in concurrence with Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1090, 1091, and 1092 to grant amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF; Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF; Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas, and Revolutionary Proletarian Army, Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), and Executive Order No. 125, for the creation of the National Amnesty Commission.
Mr. President, to say that this is an “act of compassion” may not be enough without emphasizing what it truly stands for, that is an act of mercy not only for those who will be granted amnesty but also for those who seek a true and lasting national peace and reconciliation.
Looking back, our pursuit for a truly meaningful peace is an arduous and complex journey.
In fact, our government’s peace negotiations with the MILF began as early as January 1997. It continued in 2001 with the assistance of the Government of Malaysia, which ultimately led to the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012 that laid out the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Power Sharing, and Normalization.
This culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014, which consolidates and affirms the understanding and commitment between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.
The landmark breakthrough in this long process of achieving peace with our Muslim brothers is the creation of a new Bangsamoro political entity through the enactment of Republic Act No. 11054, otherwise known as the Organic Law for the the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BOL).
This solidifies our commitment to the gradual normalization process of the MILF combatants, their families and communities, as well as the internally displaced persons and poverty-stricken communities.
We have also traversed a long path of reconciliation since the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) launched its first offensive against the Government in October 1972. The MNLF referred their issues to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which later on facilitated the negotiations between the government and the MNLF. Such OIC-led mediation between the parties led to a ceasefire agreement and the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement – the basis for a just, lasting, honorable, and comprehensive solution to the problem in the Southern Philippines within the framework of the Philippine Constitution.
There were bottlenecks and struggles along the way until September 1996, when the government and the MNLF signed and executed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) intended to be the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
Meanwhile, the formal peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB or KAPATIRAN began in December 1999 under President Estrada. On 6 December 2000, a Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB was signed. The said agreement covers four (4) identified areas, namely: cessation of hostilities; confidence-building measures; releasing of political prisoners; and implementation of development projects.
Subsequently, in 2002, a Clarificatory Document was signed to respond to the issues and led to the creation of the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee (JEMC) to supervise and monitor the implementation of the GPH and RPM-P/RPA/ABB commitments under the 2000 Peace Agreement.
On 19 July 2019, the Government executed the final step to the 2000 Peace Agreement through the signing of the Clarificatory Implementing Document (CID), pursuant to the directive of President Duterte to implement all signed peace agreements.
Mr. President, this is just an abridged narrative of our decades-long battle against this political divide. In the foreground of all of these peace negotiations, nonetheless, is the promise of the government not only of socio-economic development but of the granting of amnesty.
Mr. President, as the House of Representatives already gave their concurrence to the said Proclamations, it is now in our hands to likewise concur. It is high time that we finally stand up to our commitment to “walk the talk” to attain the objectives of our myriad of peace negotiations. Through these amnesty grants, we are handing out second chances to the over 7,600 prospective applicants who are willing to have a new start in life in a secure place in society.
Indeed, amnesty is an act of compassion on the part of the government. It is a chance to mend our wounds from our constant struggle. More importantly, this is our time to heal. If viewed the same by all parties concerned, then our concurrence may be another step closer towards reconciliation, and ultimately the attainment of lasting peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.