Will Duterte himself sign over 100,000 amnesty applications for MILF rebels?

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2018 03:21 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte greets Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal during a meeting in Malacañang. Albert Alcain, Malacanang Photo/File

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte will soon face the prospect of having to sign tens of thousands of amnesty documents for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front following his theory that the task could not be delegated, a legal analyst said Friday.

More than 100,000 MILF combatants and officials are expected to be covered by an amnesty under Duterte, said Mohagher Iqbal, as part of the government’s landmark peace deal with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

The “normalization” phase of the peace process calls on the government to “take immediate steps through amnesty, pardon and other available processes toward the resolution of cases of persons charged with or convicted of crimes and offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

Iqbal, chairman of the MILF’s implementing panel, said his group was anticipating the amnesty to come in time for the ratification of the Bangamoro Organic Law, which will be followed by the creation of a transition government.

The plebiscite for the new law is set on Jan. 21 next year.

ABSURD

Constitutional law professor Tony La Viña said the president could change the practice and opt to affix his original signature to each of the amnesty documents, following his argument against the amnesty granted to his critic, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, by the previous administration.

“That’s how absurd it is, this argument that an amnesty application has to be signed and approved by the president,” La Viña told ABS-CBN News.

Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, described La Viña’s argument as “absurd.”

“All the president has to do is to enumerate the approved applicants for amnesty in a proclamation or executive order and sign the same,” Panelo said.

URSURPATION?

Duterte earlier argued that Trillanes’ amnesty was void because the documents were signed by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and not former President Benigno Aquino III.

The president took it to mean that Aquino had delegated his power to grant an amnesty to his defense secretary, and Gazmin usurping authority.

Aquino’s 2010 proclamation tasked the defense department to receive and process amnesty applications.

“Secretary Gazmin did not approve a single amnesty,” La Viña said.