THE PASSAGE of the landmark Marcos human rights victims compensation bill or the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013” is a most welcome development even if reservations persist about how it will be implemented, once signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, to the satisfaction of the victims themselves.
Finally, here is official recognition that the Marcos regime was a brutal and repressive regime imposed upon the Filipino people via the declaration of martial law that was nothing less than a craftily disguised Palace coup d’ état.
The principal characters who jointly perpetrated and benefitted from the blood-soaked and kleptocratic regime such as the other half of the Conjugal Dictatorship, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, martial law administrator Juan Ponce-Enrile, and businessman and now presidential uncle, Danding Cojuangco, wish to wash their hands of their complicity or even try to rewrite history.
To a certain extent they have been able to do just that by virtue of their ill-gotten wealth, their undeserved positions in government, as well as their reinstatement in high society circles after being considered, fleetingly, as social pariahs.
But the existence of tens of thousands of victims subjected to gross violations of their human rights such as extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance, torture and prolonged, unjust detention in subhuman conditions belies any attempt to justify or prettify Marcos’ martial rule.
It is to the credit of these victims, their bona fide organization, SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) that filed the original class action suit against the Marcos estate in 1986 in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii and won for its 9,539 members an award of $2 Billion in 1995, and the human rights defenders and political activists who refuse to allow the lessons of martial law to be forgotten, that the Marcos compensation bill has come this far.
It has been 41 years and many of the victims are either dead or old and ill, and their families destitute. They are more than deserving of this token reparation and that their names be inscribed in a “Roll of Victims” to be part of the “Memorial/Museum/Library” that will be set up to honor them.
Unfortunately the bill says very little about what else aside from the martial law atrocities and the victims’ heroism that will be memorialized.
Pres. Aquino is reported to have remarked in connection with the compensation bill that the martial law era was an “aberrant period,” “a nightmare that happened to the Filipino nation” and that it should be written down with formality “so that we can be sure that this would not happen again in the future.”
For their part educators and historians have decried how the martial law era is treated perfunctorily if not sketchily in the textbooks used in our public schools so that its whys and wherefores are lost on the younger generation.
While Marcos’s ambition, cunning, puppetry and greed were among the main ingredients in the setting up of the dictatorship, this did not take place in a vacuum. Rather, Marcos imposed martial rule in the midst of an acute crisis in a chronically crisis-ridden social system weighed down by poverty, maldevelopment, social injustice and neocolonial domination.
It was his scheme to tamp down the crisis by eliminating all opposition and thus monopolize the spoils of elite rule and perpetuate himself in power with the blessings of the US. How many know about the complex reasons behind the political imprimatur and economic backing provided by the United States government to Marcos’s one-man rule, only to drop the favored dictator like a hot potato and embrace his successor, Mrs. Corazon Aquino, some 14 years later.
Marcos was overthrown but the reactionary system still exploits and oppresses the Filipino people. State fascism and concomitant human rights violations are not mere aberrations but are well entrenched in this system so that impunity for human rights violations still reigns.
Glossy, coffee table books on the EDSA “people power” uprising give more than ample coverage of the roles of Senator Ninoy Aquino’s widow “Cory,” Cardinal Sin, General Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce-Enrile and other personalities in toppling the dictatorship but they provide only snapshots, at biased angles, and not a continuing account of the people’s history of resistance as it unfolded from the moment Marcos declared martial law in 1972.
The defiant call “Never again (to martial law)!” can easily be rendered meaningless when the complete context — socioeconomic and political — as well as the specific historical facts and circumstances that gave rise to and propped up Marcos’ authoritarian rule are not rigorously documented and objectively analyzed.
Indeed, the untold stories of how the Filipino people, especially the masses of peasants, workers and other urban poor, struggled against the dictatorship must be collected and retold in such a way that the martial law era will be remembered as one of resistance and not submission or even “victimization.”
There should not be any discrimination against those who took the path of armed revolutionary struggle against the fascist dictatorship since this form of struggle contributed significantly to its weakening and eventual overthrow not to mention that most of these revolutionaries paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the process.
In the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) inked between the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), Articles 4 and 5 provide for indemnification to victims of human rights violations, citing in particular the need to compensate victims under the Marcos regime. In the many sessions of the GRP-NDFP peace talks (both formal and informal) the NDFP peace panel had consistently and persistently raised the issue with their GRP counterpart.
The GRP appeared to have acknowledged the justness of this demand by eventually signing CARHRIHL that provides for it. But the actual indemnification did not materialize evidently due to the Arroyo regime’s machinations. Now it remains to be seen, assuming Pres. Aquino will sign the bill into law, whether the martial law human rights victims will finally get what is due them.