Tuesday, February 6, 2024

OPAPRU: Amnesty key to better lives, opportunities for ex-rebels

 From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7, 2024): OPAPRU: Amnesty key to better lives, opportunities for ex-rebels (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday emphasized the importance of granting amnesty to members of revolutionary groups who have committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs.

“Amnesty does not only extinguish criminal liability for the acts committed by these former rebels. It creates a path toward their full transformation and enables them to return to mainstream society,” Galvez said in a statement.

During Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace Unification and Reconciliation, the government's peace adviser also said amnesty would be the key to building a better and brighter future for members of revolutionary groups, their families, and their communities.

Galvez also noted that despite the strong desire of members of these revolutionary groups to be productive citizens in their communities, the "looming threat of legal repercussions" limits them from doing so.

“They are torn between their desire to turn a new leaf, on one hand, and be held accountable for their political mistakes, on the other,” he said.

Galvez was among the rebel soldiers who were granted amnesty by the late president Fidel V. Ramos for his involvement in the 1989 coup attempt against the late president Corazon Aquino.

Galvez said he and his co-officers experienced the "transformative power of amnesty" as they were not only forgiven by the state but were also reinstated in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and were able to continue their career in public service after their retirement in the military.

On Nov. 22, 2023, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. issued Proclamation Nos. 403, 404, 405, and 404 granting amnesty to members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), respectively.

After this issuance, the House of Representatives on Dec. 15 last year approved four House Concurrent Resolutions (HCR) that granted amnesty to members of these revolutionary groups.

As contained under Section 19, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all members of Congress.

The granting of amnesty is also among the main confidence-building measures under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) local peace engagement framework, normalization program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), transformation program for MNLF members, as well as the clarificatory implementing document signed between the government and the RPMP-RPA-ABB or KAPATIRAN.

Those who may file for amnesty include any member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MNLF, RPMP-RPA/ABB, or former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who have committed any act or omission in pursuit of their political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or Special Penal Laws.

This includes those detained, charged, or convicted for such acts or omissions.

“Former members/rebels” refers to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF or their front organizations who have decided to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

The application for amnesty must specifically state the acts that were committed and are covered by these amnesty proclamations.


DND chief wants heightened military presence in Batanes

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7, 2024): DND chief wants heightened military presence in Batanes (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BATANES VISIT. Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. (right) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (2nd from left) visit the AFP's Mavulis Island detachment on Tuesday (Feb. 6, 2024). During his visit, Teodoro called on the AFP to increase their presence in the country's northernmost province. (Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Northern Luzon)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. called for more military presence in the country's northernmost province of Batanes.

Teodoro said a higher "operational tempo for the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)" would be implemented starting this year, the Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) said in a statement Tuesday night.

This came after Teodoro visited the military's naval detachment in Mavulis Island and inspected the ongoing construction of the Naval Forward Operating Base Mahatao in Batan Island on Tuesday.

He was joined by AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and other ranking military officials.

Teodoro’s visit highlights the importance of fortifying the country's territorial defense capabilities, which is required in protecting the nation, the NFNL added.

"He also called for the development of more structures, noting that Batanes is the 'spearhead' of the Philippines as far as the northern baseline is concerned," it said.

The NFNL said Teodoro also called for strengthened interagency cooperation between the AFP and other agencies, especially the local government units, to protect stakeholders such as fisherfolk and other maritime-related agencies.

Meanwhile, Brawner thanked the soldiers deployed in Mavulis Island for their dedication to their duties and selflessness in taking on the remote assignment.

“What you’re doing here in Mavulis is essential to our territorial defense, in safeguarding our sovereignty, and in the performance of our mission as protector of the people and the state. I am very thankful to all of you,” he added.


Houses for ex-rebels to rise in Eastern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2024): Houses for ex-rebels to rise in Eastern Samar (By Roel Amazona)

NEW HOUSE. The proposed design of houses for former rebels in Can-avid, Eastern Samar. The project aims to encourage former rebels not to return to armed struggle. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – To ensure that former rebels will not return to armed struggle, the local government of Can-avid in Eastern Samar assured Monday to provide them with decent homes.

Mayor Vilma Germino issued the statement following the groundbreaking of the “Saad na Balay” (promised houses) project to benefit former members of the New People’s Army.

Germino said at least 10 houses, each worth PHP272,642 and designed half-concrete and half-fiber boards, will be initially built for the former rebels in Can-avid, she said.

“The goal is to provide a decent home to former rebels and encourage remaining active New People’s Army members to surrender and reintegrate into the normal community,” she said.

The project is a collaborative effort between the provincial and municipal governments, the Philippine Army, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

As part of the project, beneficiaries will receive training from TESDA for carpentry and masonry skills, making them the primary workforce during the construction of their homes.

They will be enrolled in the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers program of the DOLE to provide them with income during the construction phase.

Livelihood assistance and other capacity-building interventions will also be provided to them.

Before the groundbreaking ceremony, OPAPRU Area Management Unit-Eastern Visayas chief Imelda Bonifacio told stakeholders and beneficiaries that the project is beyond physical structures.

“The focus of the ‘Saad Na Balay’ project aims to promote peace and resilience within the community. By engaging in dialogue and consultations with project beneficiaries, OPAPRU ensures a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns with its mission,” Bonifacio said.


NOLCOM ensures readiness of territorial defense outposts

Posted to the Herald Express (Feb 5, 2024): NOLCOM ensures readiness of territorial defense outposts (By Press Release)

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City – Military top Officials of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spearheaded by Lt. Gen. Fernyl G. Buca of the Philippine Air Force inspected the two farthest Naval Detachments in Basco and Mavulis in the province of Batanes on January 27 and 28, 2024.

During the visit, the military officials, along with the BALIKATAN 39-2024 planners, inspected the facilities to ensure that the country’s defense outpost is equipped and prepared to safeguard the Batanes Island Group Area and secure and control Luzon Strait and other critical maritime areas. Apart from that, operational procedures were assessed and reviewed with the aim of strengthening the defense posture in the northernmost island.

The Luzon strait which includes the Balintang and Bashi Channels is within the NOLCOM’s Joint Operational Area is a strategically important factor in maneuvering forces for strategic advantage where it is also considered a chokepoint for naval and air traffic.

Inaugurated in October 2023, the Naval Detachment in Mavulis Island in Batanes, strengthens the Philippines’ defense and strategic security capabilities in Northern Luzon. It is poised to play a pivotal role in securing the Philippine territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights in order to protect the nation’s maritime borders and interests.

The NOLCOM commander said the visit highlights NOLCOM’s commitment to national defense and security as well as part of the transitional phase towards territorial defense operation and a site inspection for the upcoming BALIKATAN Exercises 39–24, the largest bilateral military exercise.

“It is the mandate of the NOLCOM AFP to protect and serve the nation’s interests. The northernmost defense outpost plays a crucial role in our defense strategy and that we must continue investing to ensure its preparedness and capabilities.”

The visit to Mavulis Naval Detachment also boosted the morale of the troops, composed of a 14-man team from the Philippine Navy (Marines) and Civilian Active Auxiliary who are taking post in the detachment.

“Nagpapasalamat po kami kay Lt. Gen. Fernyl G. Buca ang Commander ng NOLCOM at sa iba pang military Commanders sa inyong pagbisita para makita ang kalagayan namin dito sa Mavulis. Kami ay masaya at nakita namin ang inyong buong suporta. Kahit malayo po kami sa aming mga pamilya kami ay patuloy na magsakripisyo alang-alang sa pagbantay ng ating soberinya at sa bansang Pilipinas”, said Sgt Harley Calicaran.

Buca also expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the dedication and sacrifices of the troops deployed in the Mavulis Naval Detachment, who play a significant role in monitoring potential security threats and illegal activities in the country’s exclusive economic zone and territorial waters. Further, they reported that no foreign fishermen were monitored in this part of our territorial waters.

A raising of the flag and the singing of Lupang Hinirang resounded at the top of the Mavulis Island in Batanes.