Members of the civil society and the opposition have crossed party lines to persuade President Benigno Aquino III to grant amnesty to active and former military officers and enlisted personnel involved in the failed mutinies against the Arroyo administration for the sake of peace and reconciliation.
In a manifesto that appeared in a national broadsheet, they urged the President to extend a hand of reconciliation to soldiers in the same way the present administration is reaching out to the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to resolve the long-standing political conflicts.
"This appeal is neither to encourage impunity for their actions in the Oakwood incident of 2003, the Marine standoff of 2006, nor for those in The Peninsula Manila siege of November 2007 and several other related incidents," stated the manifesto signed by 90 national and local leaders that included former President Joseph Estrada, former Senate Presidents Jovito Salonga and Ernesto Maceda, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr.
"We believe that it is time for them to rebuild their lives, and in the process, contribute to rebuilding this nation," they added, since these soldiers have already "paid their dues" and have suffered the consequences of their actions.
Recently, the Senate has approved a resolution seeking the temporary transfer of custody of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to the upper chamber to allow him to fulfill his mandate as representative of 12 million Filipinos who voted for him in the 2007 elections.
Trillanes has been under detention since 2003 for the coup d’ etat charges in connection with the Oakwood mutiny in Makati City. He also faces rebellion charge with the Makati Regional Trial Court for taking part in the 2007 takeover of Peninsula hotel.
Aside from Trillanes, the only mutineer left in detention, about 300 to 500 officers and enlisted personnel will be affected by the amnesty. Others have been released from detention but with pending cases before the civilian courts for the mutinies against the government of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"President Noy, we believe that granting amnesty to these soldiers is not only acceptable, but also timely in view of the government’s agenda for peace and reconciliation," the manifesto said.
Others who signed the manifesto are Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Leticia Ramos-Shahani and Victor Ziga; former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero; Jesus is Lord leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva; constitutionalist and Ateneo Law School dean Fr. Joaquin Bernas; Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines director Bishop Broderick Pabillo; Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz; and retired Air Force commander Gen. Ramon Farolan and Commodore Rex Robles.
Former UP president Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, University of the Philippines professors Randy David and Raul Pangalangan, former Pangasinan Gov. Oscar Orbos, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros -Baraquel, Liberal Party director general Chito Gascon, PDP-Laban secretary general Jose De Venecia III, Concerned Citizen Movement lawyer Harry Roque, Black and White co-conveners Imelda Nicolas and Leah Navarro, and whistle-blower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada also signed the manifesto. /MP