Sison not covered by amnesty, says Esperon

By Cynthia Balana
Last updated 04:59am (Mla time) 09/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison may not be covered by an amnesty proclamation for communist rebels which Malacañang will issue soon, according to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.


Interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the celebration of the 50th National Day of Malaysia on Tuesday night, Esperon said he doubted if Sison himself would avail of the amnesty proclamation.


Esperon pointed out that Sison was being tried in The Netherlands for ordering the assassination in the Philippines of his former comrades, a crime under Dutch law.


“I think he will not be covered. It’s The Netherlands that is charging him with felonious acts. He may not be covered,” Esperon said.


Asked if Sison’s alleged crimes in the Philippines would be covered, Esperon quipped: “I think that’s something for the legal minds to study. Probably yes, but he is now facing charges in the Netherlands. So our amnesty will not cover any laws of other lands.”


US assistance


Sison, 68, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), was arrested by Dutch police on Aug. 28 and ordered detained by a judge in The Hague.


A statement by Wim de Bruin, spokesperson of the Dutch national prosecutor’s office, said Sison was suspected of giving orders, from the Netherlands, to murder former communist associates Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara.


The CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), have been listed as terrorist organizations both by the European Union and the United States.


US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney has said that Washington is willing to help the Dutch government prosecute Sison if the latter would seek US help.


AFP backs amnesty


At the Malaysian reception, Esperon said he expected more legal questions to crop up on the qualifications of applicants for amnesty once the proclamation was released and submitted to Congress for concurrence.


Esperon said the Armed Forces of the Philippines fully supported the amnesty proclamation as long as the rebels would return to the mainstream. He said the military was part of the discussions when the amnesty proposal was being considered.


Legal loopholes


“It’s OK with us if they come to the mainstream, except of course for certain crimes like rape, and crimes not in connection with political beliefs. Otherwise, we will go for that,” he stressed.


Former President Fidel V. Ramos, who also attended the Malaysian affair, said he, too, was for giving amnesty to rebels except for crimes committed not in furtherance of political beliefs.


Ramos urged Malacañang to carefully study the parameters of the amnesty program to avoid legal loopholes.


The National Security Council the other day approved the grant of amnesty to communist rebels willing to lay down their arms, in a move it hoped would hasten the conclusion of the stalled peace negotiations with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF).


The amnesty could also cover party-list representatives charged with rebellion for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the government in February 2006, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said.


Administration ploy


Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo described the amnesty offer as “malicious … (and) consistent with the Red-baiting tactics of Malacañang against progressives.”


Ocampo reminded Gonzales and Dureza that the Makati Regional Trial Court had already dismissed the “Palace-fabricated” rebellion cases against him and 50 other co-accused.


“The trumped-up rebellion case against us has long been dismissed by the Supreme Court,” said Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza.


Ocampo said amnesty “is a standard counterinsurgency ploy in light of the government’s declared goal to finish (off) by 2010 the Left insurgency (by) strategically defeating the New People’s Army.”


“(For) amnesty to be meaningful, (it) must form part of a comprehensive peace agreement and not a unilateral act of government in an ongoing armed conflict,” he said. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra


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