What is Amnesty? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 October 2010 15:09

By definition, amnesty is an official act of the head of state granting pardon to people convicted of political offenses or crimes.

In the case of the Magdalo soldiers involved in the Oakwood and other mutinous uprisings, the crime that they are collectively accused of is rebellion as armed resistance against an established government. Synonyms to this term include insurrection, mutiny, revolt, uprising and subversion.

Since law is not my field of competence, I avoid making judgments or conclusive interpretations of legal issues and controversies. I confine my discussion to the parameters of opinion expression as a basic right guaranteed by the l987 Constitution.  This being my professional and scholastic limitation, I shall proceed with journalistic caution and literary reservation.

Section l9 of Article VII (Executive Department), explicitly states “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in the Constitution (l987, the President may grant reprieve, commutations, and pardons and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction. Under the same provision, the President shall also have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all members of Congress.

The term amnesty as popularly defined is an official pardon for people convicted of political offenses. This term is derived from the Greek word “amnesia” which literally means non-remembrance but was regularly used in a legal sense as pardon. In the glorious days of Kings and Emperors, rebels were granted pardon, forgiveness, absolutions, reconciliation, immunity, and amnesty. On this historical basis, rebellion is tacitly a political offense.

While the Magdalo soldiers concerned are constitutionally eligible for the grant of amnesty by the very nature of the crime they committed, Section l9, of Article VII is very explicit that this can only be granted after conviction.

Have all the Magdalo soldiers accused of rebellion been convicted by the court? This I leave to the legal luminaries and experts for the right interpretation.  If they have not been convicted yet, is the grant of Executive clemency or amnesty in order? Or is it a case of putting the cart before the horse?  Please don’t get upset, I am just asking. I think compassion, wisdom, and constitutionality must go together.

By Clem M. Bascar