Compensation for rights victims close to becoming a law

Leila B. Salaverria | Inquirer.net

The bicameral conference committee is close to coming up with a final version of the compensation bill for martial law abuse victims. The remaining issue to be resolved is whether or not to conclusively recognize claimants in a Hawaii class-action suit as human rights violation victims.

Deputy House Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III. PHOTO BY RYAN LEAGOGO

The bicameral panel is trying to forge a compromise on the issue, and had already ironed the other conflicting provisions in the bill, according to Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III.

Among the issues resolved Wednesday was the composition of the nominations committee for the members of the compensation board, and the members of the board’s consultative body, Tañada said.

The panel decided to follow the provision in the House bill, with some modifications to include groups identified by the Senate.

The groups that would comprise these bodies include the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, and Samahan ng Mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, Claimants 1081, Karapatan, the Free Legal Assistance Group, and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism.

As to how to consider the victims, Tañada said House contingent proposed yesterday that the Hawaii claimants would be conclusively presumed as human rights violations victims, but the amount they would receive would be subject to validation.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said this means the amount to be awarded to them would have to be determined by the board depending on the kind of abuse they suffered. A point system would be followed.

Under this system, the Hawaii claimants would have to wait for some time before getting the compensation, he said.

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 if challenged.

The conflict among the two provisions is expected to be resolved in the third bicameral conference committee meeting next week.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that for him, the claimants’ ordeal did not come out of thin air and had been validated by human rights organizations in the Philippines. They had also filed affidavits in the Hawaii court and presented testimonial evidence, Lagman said.

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