RAM members ask Duterte for amnesty

MANILA, Philippines – Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) members, led by Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, asked President Rodrigo Duterte for amnesty for some in their group during their meeting last Wednesday, August 16.

"They likewise asked the President for amnesty so that they could receive their backpay and livelihood opportunities for the members of the RAM," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Friday, August 18, during a Palace news briefing.

RAM members met with Duterte on Wednesday in Malacañang. Aside from Honasan, present were RAM officers retired captain Felix Turingan, retired captain Glen Agudo, retired Navy commodore Rex Robles, retired colonel James Joven, retired police director Victor Batac, and engineer Jegie Pineda.

The RAM is a group of soldiers, led by Honasan, who staged bloody coups during the administration of Corazon Aquino when she was president. It was founded in the 1980s when patronage politics and corruption plagued the Philippine military during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

For staging coups during the Corazon Aquino administration, RAM members were charged with rebellion and were arrested. Honasan was granted amnesty by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.

AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said at the briefing that RAM members likely requested amnesty to get gratuities and benefits necessary due to their "advanced age."

"Many of them will have requirements for health and support for their medicines," said Padilla.

Aside from asking for amnesty, the group "expressed support and offered help" to the President, said Abella.

Asked if Duterte plans to grant their amnesty request, his spokesman said there is no final decision yet. But Duterte's willingness to meet with RAM shows he views the group in a "positive" light.

A week before RAM's meeting with Duterte, Honasan was ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan for two counts of graft over the alleged misuse of his pork barrel in 2012.

Honasan enjoys a friendship with Duterte who, during a speech on May 9, admitted he hid the rebel soldier in Davao City.

Though Duterte did not say when this happened, he recalled touring Honasan around his hometown, even enjoying durian on the sidewalks together. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.