LETTER TO THE EDITOR

July 25, 2010

It is a travesty of history when one distorts and denies it. It is doubly insulting when the real and historical role of the people and martyrs are diluted and denied to suit one’s self-interest for an appointment for a government position.

The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), the organization of former political prisoners, would like to re-state and clarify the historical role of the Filipino people in our struggle for justice and indemnification for the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship. It is but incumbent for us to speak especially when we hear and witness the height of distortion of history; when the likes of former Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales, an avid aspirant for the top plum at the Commission on Human Rights, and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros peddle lies such as the claim of Rosales’ alleged leadership role in the struggle for justice and indemnification of the victims of Martial Law.

In 1984, those who suffered illegal arrest, torture and detention organized themselves into SELDA to strive for the freedom of those detained and to work for the achievement of justice. SELDA was first established by former political detainees, led by Fidel Agcaoili, with Don Chino Roces as founding chairman and Agcaoili as founding secretary general. Immediately after People Power I, in its desire to show the world the systematic and gross human rights violations unleashed by the dictator on the Filipino people and their courageous struggle to fight it, SELDA filed a class action suit against the Marcoses at the US Federal Court System.

At that time, the leaders of SELDA contemplated to institute measures to remind the nation of Marcoses’ crimes against humanity and hold the dictator accountable for such as the Cory government did not file any charges against the dictator. Invoking the Aliens Tort Act with the assistance of American lawyer Atty. Robert Swift, SELDA filed the case against Marcos in the US Federal District Court System on April 7, 1986, which would later be heard at the Federal Court of Hawaii at the sala of Judge Harry Fong as Marcos lived in that state. The case would prosper as MDL-840 (Maximo and Celsa Hilao et al vs. the Estate of Ferdinand Marcos)

The Federal District Court of Hawaii dismissed the case, arguing that Marcos had a privilege of immunity from suits. SELDA appealed the case at the US Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit, which later issued a ruling favoring the Marcos victims reversing the earlier decision of the Hawaii Federal Court. From the time of the filing of the suit up to the time of filing of the claims of members of the class, SELDA, which initiated the suit, did all the work in looking for the named plaintiffs, helping in the depositions, getting the materials for the case, and all necessary work for the lawyers. The organization has consistently been at the forefront of the struggle for justice of and for the Martial law victims even as lawyer Robert Swift, the Ramos administration and some individuals had initiated moves for compromise settlements which aimed to exonerate the Marcoses from any accountability and guilt for their atrocious acts in exchange for money.

It was in 1994 when a small group of SELDA and class members formed a breakaway group and formed Claimants 1081, led by Rosales. Rosales and Claimants 1081 had ingratiated themselves to Atty. Swift so that they can form another group which would work for the “early” resolution of the case to obtain money. It was very clear that they established themselves only after the Federal Court issued monetary awards on the case. Through Swift, Rosales and Claimants 1081 sought to collect membership fees and quarterly fees from the victims in utter violation of the Federal Court order which prohibited solicitations from the victims. Further, Rosales, using the reason to obtain “compensation money for the claimants right away” has adhered and agreed with Swift with regard to the various compromise settlements entered into by the American lawyer with the Marcoses, without consulting the victims, and even without a final, executory Court ruling.

Thus, with Rosales’ record and her subsequent distortion of history, we are raising serious questions and objections to Ms. Rosales’ rumored appointment to the Chairperson position of the Commission on Human Rights. As victims of human rights violations during Martial Law, we demand a transparent and democratic process of selection of public officials at the CHR, where we can actively participate in and where we can look at the integrity and sense of historical delicadeza as among other standards for good and democratic governance, of those who are being considered for the position.

(sgd) Marie Hilao Enriquez
Secretary General, SELDA
(Parents and sibling are among the named plaintiffs in the Marcos class action suit in Hawaii)

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