Aquino gov't makes another amnesty 'blooper'

By Ryan Chua & Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2010 01:56 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2010 04:02 AM

Palace official insists there's nothing wrong with amnesty list

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - An administration ally in the Senate is "extremely disappointed" with Malacañang for submitting to them an inaccurate list of beneficiaries of the amnesty proclamation, which includes a fellow senator and members of the communist party.

Senate peace, unification and reconciliation chairman Teofisto Guingona III had to suspend the hearing on Monday because of the inclusion of Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a former rebel soldier, and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front in the list of those involved in the 2006 standoff of the Marines.

"I decided to suspend the hearings until they can get their act together," Guingona said Monday, referring to Malacañang.

Guingona noted that even Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa could not explain the list, which they got from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"It is very obvious that they did not consult each other. You can see in their body language," Guigona told reporters after the hearing.

Asked when the hearing would resume, the senator said, "We wait, wait, and wait until they submit a list that is acceptable to me."

Monday's hearing was the second time Guingona's committee tackled the proclamation. Immediately after the first hearing on October, the committee approved President Aquino's Proclamation 50.

The proclamation was revised, however, because of unclear and incorrect parts like the effectivity clause, which states that the amnesty takes effect as soon as the President signs the proclamation.

Poor staff work

In an interview on ANC's On the Scene, Senator Franklin Drilon, also an administration ally, said the mistake was an "indication of the lack of preparedness" of the Palace and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Asked if it was part of the "learning curve" of a new government, Drilon said it was certainly "poor staff work."

"They didn't even examine the list submitted to us...very poor staff work," he said. "Even the armed forces is not certain who are eligible for amnesty."

Palace: Nothing wrong with list

Meanwhile, A Palace official said on Monday there was nothing wrong with the inclusion of Senator Gregorio Honasan on the list of possible applicants for amnesty as alleged by some senators.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado said the list of possible applicants for the amnesty was based on the lists prepared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of National Defense (DND), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In the case of Honasan, his name was submitted by the DOJ based on a case on the 2006 Marine standoff, which is still pending preliminary investigation at the department.

"As far as the Office of the Executive Secretary is concerned, I don't think we committed any mistake regarding the submission of the list. The list that was submitted came from the AFP and DND list, and the DOJ," Amorado said. 

"I don't think there is anything to explain. If he is watching now, I would like to tell him that we did not make the list, we just got the list from the Department of Justice," he added. "We did not see anything wrong with it. It's only a list. It's still pending preliminary investigation." 

The Palace is not revising the list only to "amplify it" to possibly include other names.

Who may apply for amnesty

Honasan, together with Council of Philippine Affairs' (COPA) Boy Saycon, former Ambassador Roy Señeres, and "other identified CPP-NPA personalities" have been charged before the DOJ, and their cases are still pending preliminary investigation, Amorado said.

Honasan may or may not apply for the amnesty. Amorado said that if Honasan did not apply for amnesty, then he would continue facing the charges.

"If you have a pending case regarding any of these 3 incidents, then we take it that you are a possible applicant. Possible applicant, meaning that it is not necessary that you really apply. It's up to you if you will apply for amnesty or not," Amorado said.            

Those who were not charged but believe they have participated in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, 2006 Marine standoff, or 2007 Peninsula siege may also apply for amnesty.

Those applying for amnesty must admit guilt "impliedly" or "expressly," depending on the final version of the guidelines. The guidelines are being drafted by the DND.            

"Anybody who will apply for the amnesty will either have to impliedly admit guilt or expressly admit guilt, depending on the final version," Amorado said.   

There are "302 possible applicants" based on the list provided by the Palace to the Senate.  

Consultations, Aquino case

Amorado said Senator Antonio Trillanes was consulted on who the possible applicants are and on the status of their cases.

He said the amnesty proclamation has undergone at least two revisions, taking into account the "suggestions" of the House and Senate committees deliberating on the proclamation. 

The Palace is still hoping that the amnesty proclamation will be approved by Congress before its Christmas break.

Asked about Army Major Jason Aquino, who reportedly is not interested in availing of the amnesty, Amorado said:

"Earlier this morning, that was I think the question of Sen. [Joker] Arroyo to [former] Gen. Danny Lim, and I don't know personally whether or not he's interested. But whether or not a person is interested in applying for amnesty, so long as you were involved in any of those 3 incidents, you will be given the opportunity to apply for amnesty. That's why the position of officer Aquino is he would like to avail of the trial in court, he would like to prove himself innocent, so that will be anti-thetical now with amnesty, because under the present proclamation, you will have--at least impliedly--you will have to admit guilt before your application can be acted upon." -- with ANC