by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com
MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has assured that Presidential Proclamation No. 1377 issued by President Arroyo last year which grants amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPPNA-NDF) and other rebel groups will not violate the equal protection clause under Constitution. In his legal opinion no. 11 issued on February 21, 2008, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez explained that the equal protection clause means that “no persons or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.”
Gonzalez, however, insisted that the he constitutional guarantee on equal protection does not prohibit classification provided as long as it is reasonable.
He explained that the classification must rest on substantial distinctions; must be relevant to the purpose of the law; must not be limited to existing conditions only; and must apply equally to all members of the same class.
“Applied to the instant case, a reading of the purposes of the presidential issuance, as revealed in its whereas clauses, vis-à-vis the provision thereof, it appears indubitable that the requirement of equal protection has been observed and complied with in the issuance of the amnesty proclamation and the classification therein appears reasonable,” Gonzalez said.
He stressed that the proclamation clearly identified class of people and the crimes covered by the amnesty offer.
Gonzalez noted that the amnesty grant is limited to members of the CPP-NPA NDF and other communist rebel groups and covers only the crime of rebellion and all other crimes committed in pursuit of political beliefs.
“For another, the classification is undeniably germane to the purposes thereof, that is, to accept the rebels back into the folds of law by granting them amnesty and eventually providing them access to the government’s socio-economic services,” the DOJ said.
The legal opinion was issued in response to the queries made by Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, on the difference between political crime and common crime and on whether the said amnesty proclamation complies with the equal protection clause.
Specifically, the DOJ secretary stressed, political crime is one that is directly aimed against the political order, as well as such common crimes committed to achieve a political purpose such as those committed in furtherance of resistance to the duly constituted authorities of the government.
On the other hand, ordinary or common simply refers to one that is not aimed directly against the political and social order.