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Bernas warns of amnesty for Ampatuans
By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:47:00 12/09/2009
“Murder committed in pursuance of rebellion is not considered a separate crime and is therefore absorbed by the charge of rebellion. The government must take care to prove two separate offenses, that murder preceded the charge of rebellion and was not committed as part of it,” said Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, a former dean of the Ateneo College of Law and a columnist of the Inquirer.
In an interview, Bernas noted that testimony gathered by investigators already included the confession of “a perpetrator who said the order given to them was to kill [the Mangudadatus]. There was no connection to rebellion [at that time].”
The government has arrested members of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao for the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people.
Witnesses have tagged Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. as the one who ordered the killings.
Bernas urged government prosecutors to pay attention to testimonies that the mayor had ordered the murders.
He noted that acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her 20-page report to Congress, had alleged that rebellion was committed by the Ampatuans to justify the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.
“Rebellion runs the risk of being granted amnesty, which can be pardoned by the President following final conviction,” said Bernas, who has been teaching criminal law since 1962.
Earlier, administration critics voiced fears that the rebellion charge against the Ampatuans might override the multiple murder charges stemming from the Maguindanao massacre.
“Murder done in pursuance of rebellion can then be absorbed in the rebellion charge. But if the murders were done separately, then these should be treated as a separate crime. If murder is committed before a rebellion, if it precedes the rebellion, it must be treated independently,” Bernas said.
In the same interview, Bernas said Ms Arroyo was not allowed to extend the 60-day martial law declaration in Maguindanao without Congress’ consent.
He said Congress had the power to revoke martial law through a majority vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives voting jointly.
“Congress can also extend martial law if requested by the President, because [she] cannot do it on her own. If Congress wants to stop martial law, it can vote to do so. However, the Constitution is silent on how long Congress can extend martial law,” he said.