Gringo in amnesty list

PNS — President Aquino and his Palace boys did it again — committing yet another big blunder and cementing further the perception that Aquino’s government is being run no differently from a student council government.

They listed as beneficiaries of the Amnesty proclamation Sen. Gregorio Honasan as well as communist rebels, all of whom are supposed to have been involved in the Oakwood Mutiny as well as the February Edsa coup bid, along with the Marines’ stand-off in Fort Bonifacio.

Due to this blunder, the approval at the committee level of the Palace’s amended proclamation granting amnesty to mutineers during

the Arroyo administration, hit another snag after senators noted a highly flawed list of recipients.

Senators were astounded to come across the name of their colleague, Senator Honasan, listed as a possible beneficiary, along with civil society leader, Pastor Boy Saycon of the Council for Philippine Affairs (Copa), former Ambassador Roy Señeres and some members of the communist groups.

Senators were prompted yesterday to call for the suspension of the hearing by the committee on peace, unification and reconciliation, which is just a step away from approval in the plenary of Presidential Proclamation No. 75, until after Malacañang submits a “clean list.”

But the Palace yesterday quickly washed its hands off the fresh wave of confusion it created among the Senate lawmakers in the matter of the list of probable applicants of the amnesty, saying that the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) has already submitted to the office of Sen. Teofisto ‘TG’ Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification, and reconciliation the list but stressed that the OES had nothing to do with the list.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado implied that the OES has nothing to apologize for what the Senate called an erroneous list of the possible amnesty applicants.

Amorado said the list was just forwarded to them by the Department of Justice (DoJ), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Department of National Defense (DND) and that they saw nothing wrong with it when they checked it prior to its transmittal to the Senate.

He pointed out that Honasan’s inclusion stemmed from the fact that he was among those personalities who were charged before the DoJ during the February 2006 Marines Standoff alongside Pastor Boy Saycon and some members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

“But since then, this has been pending preliminary investigation. The IS number of that case is IS no. 2006-1003 pending before the Department of Justice (DoJ) and we submitted this list to the Senate because the Senate asked for the list of possible applicants to the amnesty,” Amorado said.

While senators assured that this will not further delay their concurrence on the proclamation, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile underscored the need to trace the source of the document.

“Who supplied that document? It’s really questionable. I asked who supplied that information, the document, they do not know. They do not remember. My God! You have to get (that kind of) documents through formal transmittal.

Enrile said that he cautioned the committee and its chairman not to use the list as a material document that is not officially transmitted by the proper authorities. The Senate President insisted that there should be a paper trail in order to enable one to trace the source of the document.

Enrile cited the possible lapses on the part of the DND, being the agency that determines the supposed beneficiaries.

“They know who are going to apply. They know who are the people involved, that’s covered by their intelligence information. It’s impossible that they do not have that kind of information – the people involved in the Oakwood (incident). I don’t think the defense department has become that inept, that they do not have that information of the people that caused trouble in those times. We need to find the source of the document. Why would we include it into our records if you’re not sure of its authenticity?” he asked.

Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, committee chairman said there was obviously no comprehensive review of the list before it was submitted to them.

Sen. Franklin Drilon shared Guingona’s observation, saying that the only way to describe it is “poor staff work.”

Guingona, in calling for the suspension of the hearing, announced the “inconsistencies” in the list while “there are some names that need explanation.

“I would like to admonish the Executive branch to get its act together. It shows carelessness and lack of coordination,” he said.

It was during Drilon’s questioning to military officials that this matter surfaced, taking off from the 54 soldiers who had participated in the Oakwood incident in July 2003, where 50 of them were removed from service after having pleaded guilty while the four others allegedly turned themselves into state witnesses and were supposed to testify against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Drilon later was also told that there were others involved in similar undertakings eligible for amnesty and that includes Honasan, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, Saycon, Seneres, businessman Don Pepe Araneta, a number of other civilians plus five from the Communist Party, the NPA and the National Democratic Front.

“So we were flabbergasted. We said ‘can they also avail of the amnesty?’ It turns out that they just submitted to the Senate the raw listing of those who were charged before the DoJ. They did not even check whether or not these cases are still pending. That’s why Guingona was so flabbergasted that he called for the suspension of the hearing,” said Drilon.

Guingona also pointed out that 40 enlisted personnel of the Scout Rangers, who are supposed to be among the beneficiaries, are not in the list.

“I don’t know why but they’re not in the list. In the (2006) Marine standoff incident, Honasan is listed as a participant. So now we have a situation where Honasan has to apply for amnesty,” he said.

Honasan called his inclusion “malicious.”

Honasan and his group of rebels, during the 1989 coup that almost succeeded, were directly responsible for shooting and wounding Noynoy, then his mother Cory’s security.

Honasan was previously charged by the Arroyo administration in his supposed ties with the Magdalo group who had staged the Oakwood mutiny, not in the Marine standoff, and the filing of the case prompted him to go into hiding.

He was eventually captured but the charges against him were dismissed by the court.

“We always say that there is no legal defense against irresponsible intelligence report which is the root of all this. If, after cleaning up the list, my name is still there as supposed beneficiary, my lawyers and I will study whether I should accept the offer of an amnesty,” Honasan said.

Amorado said the Palace will not amend the list but will amplify it for the lawmakers to be upddated on the status of the cases of those individuals who can avail of Aquino’s amnesty by virtue of the Proclamation no. 75.

“It is not necessary that you really apply. It’s up to you if you will apply for amnesty or not. As a matter of fact, even if those there are people who were did not face any case or charges but believe they participated in any of these three incidents, can also apply for amnesty but they will have to admit guilt first,” Amorado said.

Proclamation no. 75, a revised edition of the technically erroneous Proclamation no. 50, was issued by Malacanang on Nov. 25 which grants amnesty to all the military officials police personnel, and other civilians who were involved in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, 2006 Marines Standoff, and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

“Whether or not a person is interested in applying for amnesty, so long as you were involved in any of those three 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 antithetical 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,” Amorado explained.

Amorado, nonetheless, said they are still hopeful that amnesty proclamation will be concurred by both chambers of Congress, before they adjourn their session this Dec. 18 in time for the holiday season, notwithstanding the fresh set of questions instigated by Honasan.

Amorado said that if Honasan chooses not to apply for the amnesty, he would have to face the consequences which include the possibility of facing conviction in the event the case that was filed against him prospers in court.