Marcos victims bill mired in debate

Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lawmakers crafting the final bicameral version of a bill granting compensation to victims of human rights violations during martial law are debating whether or not to automatically recognize a certain group of claimants for indemnification or to open the fund to all claimants.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares. INQUIRER.NET FILE PHOTO

Despite this snag, however, they remained optimistic a final version of the measure would be ready for ratification by the Senate and House of Representatives when both houses resume sessions on Jan. 21.

The first bicameral conference committee meeting was held last week and another is scheduled for Wednesday.

The compensation bill seeks to provide tax-free remuneration to victims of human rights violations or their relatives during the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. The funds would be taken from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth that Swiss authorities have returned to the Philippines and which stands at about P10 billion.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the bicameral conference committee debated during its meeting last week on whether or not it would be fair to automatically recognize the claimants in the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses as human rights victims entitled to compensation.

The House version of the bill states that there would be a conclusive presumption that claimants in the Hawaii suit were victims of human rights violations, while the Senate version provides for a disputable presumption, meaning their claims would be subject to validation.

Bello believes the panel is moving toward adopting the position of  disputable presumption, which would allow those who have doubts about the validity of the Hawaii claimants to contest their status and present proof against them.

 

Discussions on sharing 

Another point that was the subject of much discussion was the proposed 80-20 sharing of the compensation fund in the House bill, where the bigger chunk would go to the martial law victims recognized by the Hawaii court, and 20 percent to all other claimants.

Bello said several lawmakers raised questions about this provision’s constitutionality and fairness, and the matter had yet to be resolved.

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