Karapatan on the Marcos Jr. admin’s amnesty program

November 25, 2023

Human rights alliance Karapatan takes exception to the Marcos Jr. government’s recently announced amnesty program for its failure to recognize and address the social, political and economic roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines. Instead, its focus is on surrender, totally ignoring why persons have resorted to taking up arms in the first place. It is a shallow and tangential approach that will guarantee not the end but the continuance of armed conflict.

Would-be amnesty grantees are enticed to surrender, and thereafter trapped in a web of self-incrimination. They are obliged or forced to admit to membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the latter’s so-called front organizations of having committed a number of anti-government actions, which may include activities that do not involve the use of arms. This provision basically restores Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Law, which penalizes mere membership in the CPP, NPA or NDFP, regardless of actual participation in rebellious acts. The amnesty program also effectively criminalizes political activism and conflates it with rebellion, and insidiously targets persons who would not otherwise be categorized as rebels because they have not taken up arms.

The Marcos Jr. amnesty program likewise excludes those who have been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the defunct Human Security Act. Considering how these laws are being maliciously weaponized against activists and political dissenters, this is cause for alarm. Once this so-called amnesty program is underway, we may witness another wave of arbitrary terrorist designations and court cases filed against activists and dissenters.

The amnesty program likewise provides no protection against civil suits and offers limited guarantees as to how information disclosed by the amnesty applicant will be used.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will have a heyday red-tagging, profiling, harassing and threatening activists who refuse to join the amnesty charade, rendering them more vulnerable to more serious human rights violations.

None of these, of course, will impact the ongoing armed conflict in any significant way, and will prove to be an exercise in futility, like all previous amnesty programs of such nature.

Karapatan calls instead for a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty for all political prisoners and others slapped with trumped-up charges, including those wrongfully charged using the unconstitutional provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act and other related laws.

We demand that the Marcos Jr. government squarely addresses the root causes of the armed conflict. It must abolish the NTF-ELCAC and rescind Executive Order 70, which are nothing but instruments of repression and are totally inutile in resolving the deep-seated roots of armed conflict. It should ensure justice and accountability for all human rights and international humanitarian law violations, and the immediate release of all political prisoners. It should adhere to previously signed agreements in the government’s peace talks with the NDFP and implement thoroughgoing, comprehensive and substantial economic and political reforms. It should stop its doublespeak on human rights, social justice and just and lasting peace.