Makabayan welcomes Duterte's amnesty proposal

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Neri Colmenares and Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA - The Makabayan group on Wednesday welcomed the amnesty proposal of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte for over 500 political prisoners, calling it the first "positive step" in achieving genuine and lasting peace in the Philippines.

Duterte's plan to pardon the political prisoners was discussed during the Davao City mayor's meeting with Makabayan on Tuesday.

According to Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, the amnesty is a confidence-building measure needed to pursue the peace process.

"Nag-attempt ang gobyerno ngayon na mag-amnesty ulit para matuloy ang peace process. Paano nga naman magkakaroon ng peace process kung hinuhuli mo at kinukulong ang kausap mo?" Colmenares explained.

"Kung agree tayo na kailangan ng just and lasting peace, at ang isang tao hindi pwedeng ikulong dahil sa political beliefs niya therefore political prisoner siya. Dapat nga naman palayain, with or without amnesty."

READ: Duterte to grant amnesty to political prisoners: NDF

Colmenares is confident that the Duterte administration will succeed in settling peace with the rebels, as long as it will focus on peace talks to address the root causes of insurgency. These include the needs for electoral, economic, social and political reforms.

"Any peace process should resolve the root of insurgency. When the peace talks come, ang main na pag-usapan ang economic conditions ng Pilipinas. Paano ma-resolve ang poverty, ang injustice. Ang tao hindi pupunta ng bundok just because gusto nilang mamundok. May nagtulak sa taong yun eh," he explained.

"Ang kinaiba kasi sa amnesty ni President Arroyo, it wasn't really intended for peace process. It was intended as a counter-insurgency measure. Hindi siya bunga ng peace talks, so hindi nag-succeed yun," he added.

However, Colmenares said the amnesty will not immediately take effect. Although a president has the constitutional power to grant amnesty, it still has to be concurred by the majority of the Congress.