Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is opposed to the Senate’s adoption of House Concurrent Resolution No. 13 granting amnesty to members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) whose crimes are punishable under the Revised Penal Code and special penal laws.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, maintained that the principles of amnesty are inapplicable to MNLF leader Nur Misuari and his faction because of their notorious reputation for rebelling for the slightest offense, imagined or real.
“The grant of amnesty to the Moro National Liberation Front should not operate to deprive Zamboanga City of justice for the terrorist acts committed by Nur Misuari and his MNLF faction during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege,” she said.
“I stand firmly on the side of the people of Zamboanga in their pursuit of justice. Until Nur Misuari and the rest of his MNLF faction are held to account for these atrocities, we maintain that this ‘peace’ will merely be an illusion,” she added.
Last Jan. 24, House Concurrent Resolutions No. 13, which concurs with Duterte’s Proclamation No. 1091, was reportedly approved by 18 Senators.
De Lima was not able to cast her vote because she has not been allowed, not even via online, to participate in any Senate sessions or deliberations and to vote since the beginning of her unjust detention last Feb. 24, 2017. She would have cast a “No” vote for said resolution had she been allowed.
In explaining her opposition, De Lima cited how, for nearly three weeks in September 2013, Zamboanga City became an urban warzone when the Misuari faction of the MNLF sought to seize control of the city and attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik at Zamboanga City Hall.
The siege caused the displacement of over 100,000 people, the occupation of several barangays by the MNLF, the deaths of several civilians, not to mention soldiers and policemen, the closure of the Zamboanga International Airport, massive losses in income and livelihood opportunities, and an estimated P3.3 billion in damages.
De Lima lamented how the government chose to set aside criminal attacks on a peaceful city without so much as an admission of wrongdoing from the MNLF.
“Meanwhile, many Zamboangueños have yet to recover from the devastation. There are those who are still living in makeshift homes as internally displaced refugees while the government’s promises of relief and rehabilitation continue to elude them,” she said.
“How many times shall we allow an individual and his rebel group to break its peace deals with the government before we start waking up to the fact that peace with such man or his group is just not worth it?” she added.
Likewise, De Lima stressed that amnesty should never be awarded to those who have made a habit out of breaking peace deals with the government, and to those who resort to deadly rebellion and terrorist attacks.
“For Zamboanga City, two deadly and destructive terrorist attacks by the Misuari MNLF faction should be enough. We should not open the opportunity for a third one by granting amnesty to Misuari and his MNLF faction,” she said.
“Nine years since the siege, the cry remains, Justice for Zamboanga City!” she added.
As early as 1996, the government already entered into a peace deal with the MNLF by Misuari, with a deal that latter will be governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that was to be created after a plebiscite.
Despite the peace deal with the government, the MNLF Misuari faction continued to engage in violent upheavals against the government, victimizing civilians, killing soldiers and policemen, and resulting into death and destruction.
“Two rebellions AFTER already closing a peace deal with the government should be more than enough ground to perpetually disqualify Misuari and his MNLF faction from amnesty as a matter of national policy,” De Lima concluded.
Recall that the DOJ, under then Secretary De Lima, filed in 2013 charges of rebellion and violation of the International Humanitarian Law against Misuari, other MNLF leaders and followers. Misuari went into hiding until a Pasig court temporarily suspended his arrest warrant in 2016. (30)