Amnesty proclamation 'back to zero'

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2010 09:38 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2010 08:57 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The proclamation has been approved at the committee level, the committee report prepared and signed, and the only thing missing is approval by a majority of senators, which was supposed to happen on Monday.
 
However, everything is "back to zero" now as far as the Senate's concurrence with Proclamation 50 is concerned after Malacanang decided to withdraw it for amendments, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said on Monday.

President Benigno Aquino III's Proclamation 50 grants amnesty to over 300 rebel soldiers in three separate uprisings against the Arroyo administration
 
"It is quite frustrating," said Guingona, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification, and reconciliation.
 
Guingona said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa called during the weekend to inform him of the Palace's plan to amend the proclamation, whose beneficiaries include detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

He said Ochoa did not tell him which specific parts will be changed, but Guingona identified some provisions that may have to be amended.
 
For instance, the proclamation said the amnesty "shall take effect immediately." It needs concurrence from both houses of Congress.
 
Guingona admitted that he found some parts of the proclamation imprecise, but that his committee approved it anyway through "corrective interpretation."
 
"We understand this phrase to mean that this shall take effect upon the concurrence of Congress," the senator said, referring to the effectivity clause. "To our mind that would be enough to correct the imprecision of the language."
 
However, he said the Palace should be more precise with its issuances.
 
"I would just say that it's better if they (Malacañang) were more careful about their research and legal craftsmanship," said Guingona, a member of the administration party.
 
On October 18, Guingona's committee, together with the committee on rules, held a hearing on the amnesty proclamation and approved it on the same day.

The committee report was supposed to be taken up during session and approved on Monday.
 
Guingona said the Senate would now have to conduct another public hearing upon receiving the amended version of the proclamation and prepare a new committee report.
 
The Palace had agreed to amend the proclamation after House of Representatives committees proposed changes-among others, corrections to the effectivity clause and other vague provisions like the appeals process for a rejected amnesty application.
 
Guingona expects the new version of the proclamation to be submitted to Congress this week.
 
He believes there's still enough time for Congress to concur with the proclamation immediately and for their colleague, Trillanes, to be able to join them at the Senate before the year ends.

Sen. Francis Escudero sees nothing wrong with the proclamation being amended. "Mas masasabi ko sigurong palpak kung pinanindigan pa rin yung alam nilang kulang at mali. Pero yung pag-amin ng pagkukulang at pagwawasto nito, hindi kapalpakan," he said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, said Palace officials should not be criticized too much for not correcting errors in the proclamation before issuing it in the first place.

"They are only human beings. We have to give some leeway. Nobody is perfect," he told reporters. "I think that's not the problem of the President. That's the problem of the staff. So, the staff has to be more careful next time."