Amnesty without contrition

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If one were to go deeper into the arguments that the political opposition has taken on the revocation of the amnesty granted by Benigno Aquino III to a self-styled coup plotter who twice before chose to inflict not simply violence on our democracy but whose attacks threw economic recovery out of balance, then one might see through the self-righteous rhetoric of their veiled condonation of criminality.

Cognizant of the statutory differences among amnesty, pardon and executive clemency that each substantially surrenders to the judgment of the President, there is an unwritten requisite common to all that goes beyond the rather simplistic requirements at the center of the current controversy now being prosecuted on tabloid TV.

The controversy focuses on the physical presence of an application for amnesty and an admission that the offense charged was committed.

According to Presidential Proclamation 572, Sen. Antonio Trillanes is quoted as having said, “I would like to qualify that we did not admit to the charge of coup d’etat or anything na i-finile sa amin kasi we believe na hindi iyon ang nararapat na i-charge sa amin (that were filed against us because we believe that they weren’t the proper charges).”

Contrast this with video where he trivializes an armed coup as merely “breaking the rules.”

While there are substantial differences where degrees of perception are concerned, his trivialization of armed rebellion is technically a non-admission of the charge and a mockery of the accusation. Threatening the State through an armed rebellion is not the equivalent of jumping a red light.

On the requirement of filling up an application form, this is ministerial. It’s about a piece of paper with blanks filled in that simply says the applicant wants to his offenses erased.

Let’s define what amnesty is and analyze why it was, among pardon and clemency, a criminal offender’s most sought-after reward from a partisan political benefactor whose operant “KKK” (Kaibigan, Kabarilan and Kaklase) criteria was the principal determinant of merit.

Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Amnesty (from the Greek ἀμνηστί αamnestia, ‘forgetfulness, passing over’) is defined as: ‘A pardon extended by the government to a group or class of people, usually for a political offense; the act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of people who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted.’ It includes more than pardon, inasmuch as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the offense.”

The definition is clear on certain critical aspects.

First, the recipients “are subject to trial but have not been convicted.” Second, it forgives just as pardon does. And third, it “obliterates all legal remembrance of the offense” — a virtual grant of forgetfulness, the defining characteristic of amnesty that crowns it with raw and partisan politics and divorces it almost completely from the basic concept of justice.

The first indicates non-closure where a nullification implies that whatever state or proceedings were in play prior to the amnesty remain open.

The second where amnesty is likened to a pardon where forgiveness is granted necessitates not merely an admission of guilt which is basically a matter of establishing a fact but more important, to merit both forgiveness and forgetfulness, there is the implied necessity of remorse, regret, repentance or contrition to protect the state from a recurrence. Otherwise the admission of a fact makes no sense. Facts are not subject to choice.

It is these demanded from the penitent that segue us into the third aspect of amnesty where a grant merits obliterating “all legal remembrance of the offense.”

Without contrition the State would virtually be remunerating a criminal and the amnesty granted would be a one-sided condonation — an exercise in bias and undue privilege that both consents and effectively rewards criminality by an offender who, in this case, had twice threatened us and our Constitution with deadly violence.

Unless we demand penitence in return for forgetfulness or amnestia, we will be inviting a repeat of criminality by honoring those who would do us harm.

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