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Martial law activists renew call “No to dictatorship! Never again to martial law!”

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“We ousted a dictator before. We can do it again!”

This is how the martial law victims and their relatives expressed their resolve not to allow the resurrection of dark days of martial law.

 

Martial law victims trooped at the Aquino residence in Times Street, Quezon City to remind Pres. Aquino that it was not just former Sen. Benigno Aquino who fought the former dictator.

 

“The Filipino people opposed the fascist, bureaucrat-capitalist and imperialist character the Marcos regime long before the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino was assasinated, and long before martial law was declared,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, activist and political prisoner during martial law.

They held placards bearing signs that shouted  “Biktima ni Macoy noon, biktima ni Noynoy ngayon! No to Dictatorship! Never again to Martial Law!”

 

“We remain vigilant and defiant to any sitting President who pretends to be ‘pro-people, pro-democracy and patriotic.’” The country’s situation has not significantly changed from the time of former dictator Marcos up to Noynoy Aquino’s administration. The country remains under the shackles of corruption, subservience to U.S. imperialist policies and state repression. Now, Noynoy Aquino wants to perpetuate himself in power by amending the Philippine Constitution and clipping the powers of the judiciary.  His regime is set on further selling out the national patrimony.  Noynoy Aquino is doing a Marcos,” Enriquez, chairperson of SELDA, said.

“The Filipino people will not take these sitting down. We call on our fellow Filipinos to do the same during the fascist regime of Marcos.  Makibaka, Huwag Matakot!” Enriquez concluded. ###

 

PHOTO CREDITS: SELDA

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SELDA hits BS Aquino’s chaotic Claims Board

MACOY-NOYNOY_2“Biktima ni Macoy noon! Biktima ni Noynoy ngayon!” This is how the martial law victims describe their situation now with the rigid requirements being asked of them by the BS Aquino’s Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB).

In a press conference today, SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, martial law victim and daugther of the lead plaintiff vs. Marcos, Trinidad Herrera-Repuno, one of the expert witnesses in the Hawaii Court, and one of delisted victims Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, expressed their disgust and raise concerns over BS Aquino’s Human Rights Victims Claims Board system of application for reparation and recognition.

“I have personally witnessed the process of application in the regions of Panay, Bicol and very recently in Southern Mindanao. It is arbitrary, chaotic, inconsistent and most of all, anti-victim,” said Enriquez. Thus, she announced that she will not be filing for her claim under the law that SELDA fought so hard for to be passed.

It can be recalled that Pnoy’s-formed HRVCB said they are expecting at least 20,000 applicants. However, during the past three months of regional on-site intake operations conducted by the claims board, they are not thoroughly prepared to receive applications. They didn’t consider what difficulties the martial law victims may encounter who have to travel from the far-flung barrios just to apply personally within the limited days of regional on-site intake operations of the Claims Board. Many of the victims, who come from the sectors of the urban and rural poor, from landless peasants, have to raise money for their transportation and food just to be able to apply for reparation and recognition dispensed by the law or the RA 10368.

“The claims board asked for too many requirements from the victims, many of which were outrightly unnecessary and even outrageous. The victims are made to line up without any of the so-called respect that should have been accorded them. Biktima na nga, pinapahirapan pa,” said Enriquez.

According to Enriquez, unnecessary requirements include birth certificates from the direct martial law victims, presentation of two government-issued IDs which is not indicated in the claims board application, and original release papers for those illegally detained.

“Does the claims board realize that we are talking about martial law, that military power took over civilian institutions? How do you expect the victims, many of them are farmers and ordinary people to acquire such documents? How could they ask for release papers when these were not available amid rampant illegal arrests and detention?” Enriquez added.

More than 40 years have passed; more than two thousand victims haven’t had a taste of the indemnification of the settlement agreements in the years 2011 and 2014 as provided for in the Swift-crafted settlement agreements for those included in the Hawaii class action suit. They were delisted from the list based on the so-called “order” of the Hawaii Court that claimants must return to the Court the confirmation form sent in 1993 and 1999. This time, under RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, martial law victims demand the claims board to produce the list of 9,539 victims plus 24 direct action plaintiffs for conclusively presumed victims.

If the list of conclusively presumed has been produced at the very beginning, class action suit members need not go back to square one in their application for reparation and recognition. They only have to prove their identity.

“We are demanding that just recognition and reparation be given to the victims. The BS Aquino government should be warned not to disenfranchise victims more by violating the law which we fought for to be passed and implemented. We ousted a dictator who denied the people of their rights. We can do that again now given the same grounds,” Enriquez concluded. ###


Victims to urge Pres. Aquino to nullify appointment of former PNP General Sarmiento

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News Release
7 March 2014
SELDA continues to protest Pres. BS Aquino’s appointment of former PNP General as head of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board; exhorts

Victims to urge Pres. Aquino to nullify appointment of former PNP General Sarmiento

“It’s a yellow-colored rehabilitation of Martial Law,” SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez called Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino’s defense of the appointment of former PNP  General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board. 

The group returned to Mendiola on Friday to demand the nullification of the President’s appointment of Sarmiento, a member of the defunct Philippine Constabulary during Martial Law and later on became a two-star general of the present PNP. 

According to Enriquez, the appointment of the former general is not only a scheme “to marginalize the legitimate victims of the Marcos fascist regime but also an attempt to deodorize and prettify the image of the police and the military as dreaded martial law apparatuses.”

Three protesters, dressed as Pres. Aquino, Sarmiento and CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales, painted yellow the rolls of concertina wire on steel frames blocking the road going to Malacañang. The act symbolizes the scheme of the Aquino government in trying to conjure a police-military effort of dispensing reparation by appointing a former general to head the martial law victims’ claims board.  “If this is not callousnes, then this is an asinine behaviour of a president who lacks deep understanding of history on the people’s role in the struggle against martial law,” Enriquez added.

“The Aquino administration is trying so hard to defend this shameless appointment by shrugging off criticisms from different groups,  institutions and personalities who have fought martial law. Does this foretell how the Claims Board (HRVCB) will act on the victims’ clamor for the long-overdue justice? We all know that justice should be rendered soon especially that many of the victims worthy of recognition and reparation are in the sunset of their lives. But isn’t Pres. Aquino’s defense of Sarmiento’s appointment a way of killing us softly? Rubbing more salt into a gaping injury? exclaimed Enriquez. 

SELDA reiterated its position that Pres. BS Aquino’s appointment is a total disregard of the provisions stated in Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which state that the members of the HRVCB should have deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and  involvement in efforts against human rights violations during the regime of former President Marcos.

“It is not only her credentials as former PC officer that is anathema to the Filipinos’ historic struggle against Martial Law, but her zero track record of any involvement in asserting human rights nor any understanding or knowledge of the plights and struggles of Martial Law victims during and after the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship,” said Enriquez.  

The group maintained that former PNP General Sarmiento should not head the Claims Board, being part of the PC which, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, became the main machineries of the Marcos dictatorship in implementing the worst of human rights abuses under Martial Law. It was the PC and the AFP that dispersed rallies, “salvaged,” abducted, tortured, arrested and detained thousands of Martial Law activists. Up to the present, these military apparatuses are still the violators of human rights. “Thus, General Sarmiento’s presence in the Claims Board does not inspire respect nor confidence in the hearts of the Martial Law victims, even if the President’s apologists have positively endorsed her appointment, ” Enriquez said. 

“In appointing former PNP Gen. Sarmiento,  Pres. BS Aquino is deceptively doing a doublespeak:  while supposedly supporting the ML victims’ cry for justice by finally implementing the law that recognizes their contribution to the struggle for human rights, the government junks altogether the state’s admission of the atrocities and repression committed  against the Filipino people, the supposed objective of the law. Hence, ML victims  continue to demand  Pres. Aquino to nullify  his appointment of a police general to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. She must be replaced by someone who possesses credibility, integrity and deep empathy towards the martial law victims,” Enriquez ended. ###

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P-Noy Booed for Appointing ‘Martial Law Relic’ as Head of HR Victims’ Claims Board

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Rhodora Martinez | Kicker Daily News
February 28, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – A two-star general was put on a hot seat after critics questioned her qualifications as the newly appointed chairperson of a compensation board tasked to determine who were victims of Martial Law that deserve compensation.

This came after President Benigno Aquino III appointed police general Lina Castillo-Sarmiento to head the Martial Law Victims Claims Board.

Lawmakers and human rights groups expressed dismay over the President’s appointment of Sarmiento and vowed to seek intervention from the Supreme Court to reverse the Palace decision.

Senator Joker Arroyo appealed to Aquino in his open letter to the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer to re-examine the basis for the appointment of Sarmiento.

Arroyo said Sarmiento’s track record on human rights today does not qualify her to the position as she was never involved in human rights advocacy during the Martial Law years.

“The appointment of a general from the uniformed services to preside as chair over the adjudication of the claims for reparation and recognition of the human rights victims is a stinging repudiation of our 15 years of struggle for freedom and democracy, which culminated in the national incandescence at EDSA,” the elder lawmaker stated.

According to Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, the appointment of Sarmiento as claims board chair is a violation of the criteria that a member of the compensation board should have a “clear commitment on human rights protection and promotion.”

Colmenares said that under former President Gloria Arroyo, Sarmiento headed the Philippine National Police-Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP-HRAO).

“General Sarmiento openly defended former President Gloria Arroyo from charges of human rights violations and extra judicial killings, practically tolerating the human rights record of the Arroyo regime,” he stressed.

Republic Act 10368, also known as the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, requires the members of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to possess the following qualifications:

  • Must be of known probity, competence and integrity;
  • Must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos
  • Must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.

Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court to ask the high court to nullify Sarmiento’s appointment.

According to the petition, “human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities.”

“Compensation is a component of justice. Re-writing the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture. By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” it added.

Senator Arroyo, Colmenares and Ocampo are among those who experienced torture and detention by the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary, where Sarmiento was a member.

“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose,” Ocampo stated.

According to SELDA, there are about 10, 000 victims of human rights violations under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

RA 10368 was signed into law by President Aquino on February 2013 on the occasion of the anniversary of the historic People Power uprising that ousted the dictator president.


Violation

Editorial | Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 28, 2014

President Benigno Aquino III made an egregious mistake two weeks ago when he appointed a recently retired police general, Lina Castillo Sarmiento, to chair the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. He has since defended the appointment, offering a cluster of reasons why Sarmiento was right for the job. Sarmiento has also asked her critics to give her a chance at proving them wrong. But the appointment remains a mistake. If the President is loath to change his mind, it is up to Sarmiento to provide the urgent, necessary remedy: She should resign.

The appointment is wrong on several levels.

First, the landmark measure providing for reparation and recognition of the martial law regime’s many human rights victims, Republic Act No. 10368, became law last year; it took Malacañang 12 months to form the claims board. Given the lateness of the hour, the President owed it to the victims and their families to do everything right, not to present them with yet another problem.

Second, placing a career official from the Philippine National Police (formerly the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police) at the head of the claims board sends the wrong signals, to both victim and victimizer. The PC/INP was notorious for human rights abuses. Even if Sarmiento can claim, as she has already claimed, that she has never been accused of any human rights violation throughout her career, the simple fact is she achieved career success in an institution with a record of human rights violations.

Third, and most important: RA 10368 lists four specific qualifications that members of the claims board should possess, and Sarmiento fails the most crucial one. Section 8 reads: “There is hereby created an independent and quasi-judicial body to be known as the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board … It shall be composed of nine (9) members, who shall possess the following qualifications …. (b) Must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.”

That second phrase says it all: Sarmiento, who joined the police force in 1980, at the height (or the depths) of military rule, cannot claim “involvement in efforts against human rights violations” committed at that time. She may have risen to the rank of director, the equivalent of major general, and headed the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office late in her career, but there is no showing that, during the Marcos years, when she was still new in the force, she was fighting back against human rights violations.

We wish to be clear: We are not suggesting that Sarmiento was a violator, only that there is no evidence that she was involved in “efforts against” human rights violations then.

If there were evidence, the President would surely have adverted to it. But in defending Sarmiento’s appointment, he offered only a curious cocktail of reasons: she had the “necessary physical ability to be able to complete the job in two years,” the maturity “to fend off those who would want to sabotage what this law intends to do,” the experience of handling human rights issues and the support of officials of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights. “So, she has the skill, she has the physical energy, she has the drive, she has the right direction to be able to accomplish the job in two years or less,” he said. Maybe, but she still does not meet the requirement clearly spelled out in Section 8 (b).

Other members of the board have a better claim to the chairmanship under the President’s criteria; he could have named former Constitutional Commissioner Jose Luis Martin Gascon, for instance, and there would have been no controversy. This suggests that perhaps the real reason the President named Sarmiento lies in that notion of sabotage: that she could “fend off those who would want to sabotage what this law intends to do.”

But who is the President referring to? There were fears heard during the long struggle to pass the law that victims associated with or sympathetic to the National Democratic Front would use the reparation money to suspicious ends. This seems to us unlikely; it also raises the question of presidential limits: Why does the President have a say in how the money will be used? But all these complications obscure the new fact: The controversy over Sarmiento’s appointment amounts to a kind of sabotage, too.

If Sarmiento has the victims’ interest at heart, she should do the honorable thing and resign.


Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento is as lame as his understanding of the law

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“Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s lame defense of the appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento as head of the martial law claims board is as lame as his understanding of the very essence of the law that he is supposed to implement. It is very clear in the letter of the law that the board members should possess known probity, competence, integrity, deep and thorough understanding & knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts vs Martial Law human rights violations. Nowhere in his statement defending Sarmiento reflect such adherence to the law.”

“Aquino installed a police general, from the dreaded institution-purveyors of human rights violations, whose “experience” in tackling human rights issues is highly questionable. As head of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office, she dismissed calls for investigation on cases of rights abuses of the military and police which were raised by the international community during the Arroyo administration. In the 2013 AFP-MNLF Zamboanga City stand-off, she was eerily silent on the reported torture and other human rights violations committed against civilians and suspected MNLF members. If her record is as muddied as her concept of human rights, what of Sarmiento’s “experience” then has Aquino considered?”

“If Aquino is worried about “fending of those who want to sabotage the law” as he says, he should just look at the mirror. By appointing Sarmiento, Aquino appears as the primary saboteur of the intent of the law to provide justice and reparations to Martial Law victims.”

Cristina Palabay
 secretary general

SC asked: Void Sarmiento appointment

Christine O. Avendaño | Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 26, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—As the Aquino administration celebrated the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, victims of martial law went to the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop a retired police director from chairing the board that would determine compensation for victims of the Marcos regime.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo was among those who filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction as well as an application for a temporary restraining order against Lina Sarmiento, whom President Aquino named chair of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

Named respondents in the petition were Aquino, who was accused of committing grave abuse of discretion when he appointed Sarmiento, former chief of the Philippine National Police Community Relations Group under the government’s counterinsurgency program and head of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) before her new appointment.

Ocampo and five other petitioners told the high court that they were aghast that Aquino had appointed a police general to head the claims board.

They said Sarmiento’s appointment was “illegal” and should be declared void as she failed to meet the minimum qualifications for a board member set by Republic Act No. 10368, or the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

In their petition, they said Sarmiento did not meet the requirements that she “must be of known probity, competence and integrity (Section 8a); must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Marcos (8b); and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”

The petitioners said the President “may argue that respondent Sarmiento has a track record as a member and officer of the PNP but it cannot be denied that she lacks the mandated qualifications set forth under the law, and the institution she represents lacks the credibility and integrity to deliver justice to human rights victims.”

The petitioners also said that when Sarmiento was HRAO chief, she “became part of the machinery, which ‘attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.’”

One case Sarmiento handled was about farmer Renante Romagus who survived abduction and torture. He was stabbed and left for dead in December 2007 in Compostela Valley province, Ocampo et al. said.

They said Sarmiento dismissed calls for investigations of Romagus’ case “as she lamely but callously blamed instead the victims’ inability to identify his perpetrators.”

They also said Sarmiento was a member of Task Force Usig, created by the Arroyo administration which investigated extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances but which they pointed out had failed to do its job.

The petitioners noted that there was nothing on public record to show that Sarmiento was involved in any effort against atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship.

“If at all, she was a silent, passive, if not acquiescent cog in the security apparatus of the repressive dictatorship,” they said.

Ocampo et al. said their petition was not a question of not only whether Sarmiento was qualified under the law to assume such post but also of whether the President’s act of approving her appointment “contravenes the very essence of the law he is supposed to implement.”

And they said the answer to both questions was “in the negative.”

“Therefore, the illegal and unjustifiable appointment by no less than respondent Aquino, the very person who signed the law and a son of supposed icons of Philippine democracy, of a former police general representative of or coming from an institution that has perpetrated gross human rights violations during the Marcos regime—and even up to the present—negates and renders nugatory the very purpose for which the law was enacted,” they said.

The petitioners said the high court should declare Sarmiento’s appointment null and void because the President had committed grave abuse of discretion.

“By appointing a former police general to head the human rights board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” they said.

Aside from Ocampo, the other petitioners were Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Bayan chair Carolina Araullo, and Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail—members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto.


Martial Law victims ask SC to nullify appointment of police general to claims board

 InterAksyon.com

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 3:35 p.m.) Victims of human rights abuses committed by the Marcos dictatorship marked the 28th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising by asking the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment of retired police general Lina Sarmiento to head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.

Among the petitioners were former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Neri Colmenares, the incumbent representative of the party-list group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chair Carlo Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail, all of them among the close to 10,000 human rights abuse victims awaiting recognition under Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

Many quarters have protested the appointment of Sarmiento, calling it a travesty of the law’s intent and an insult to the dictatorship’s victims.

Among those who have voiced their opposition are former Senators Rene Saguisag and Joker Arroyo, both prominent human rights lawyers who defended the victims of the dictatorship.

In a statement, the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto said RA 10368 mandates that members of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board possess the following qualifications:

  • must be of known probity, competence and integrity
  • must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos
  • must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy

“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations (to) go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose. We shall exhaust any legal remedy available so that justice may be served,” Ocampo said in the statement.

The petition for certiorari he and the others filed says: “It is more than an issue of trust between the Human Rights Claims Board and the human rights victims. It is greater than ensuring confidence in the system supposedly envisioned to bring about justice. It is beyond the integrity of the process of arriving at the compensation to be awarded and the standards to be used in determining compensability and linking it to the rightful beneficiaries. The sum total of these values, though important, does not adequately address the issue against appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board.”

“The human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities,” it added. “Compensation is a component of justice. Rewriting the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture.”

“By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” the petition said.

The petitioners are represented by lawyers Edre Olalia, Julian Oliva, Ephraim Cortez and Minerva Lopez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Despite the criticism of Sarmiento’s appointment, President Benigno Aquino III defended his choice, citing the retired general’s age and experience.

He also said Sarmiento would be able to “fend off those who want to sabotage” the law.

But Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights organization Karapatan, described Aquino’s defense of Sarmiento as “lame … as lame as his understanding of the very essence of the law that he is supposed to implement.”

“By appointing Sarmiento, Aquino appears as the primary saboteur of the intent of the law to provide justice and reparations to Martial Law victims,” she said.


SELDA files certiorari at SC, demands nullification of Gen. Sarmiento’s appointment to Human Rights Victims Claims Board

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News Release
25 February 2014

Continuing protest vs PNoy-created HR Victims Claims Board
SELDA files certiorari at SC, demands nullification of Gen. Sarmiento’s appointment to Human Rights Victims Claims Board

On the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I, Martial Law victims led by former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo filed a petition today asking the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment of PNP Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, the formation of which Pres. BS Aquino announced on February 13, 2014.

Petitioners include martial law victims namely Former Bayan Muna Rep. Saturnino Ocampo, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, Dr. Maria Carolina P. Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail. All of them belong to the almost 10,000 Martial Law victims awaiting recognition as stated in Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 signed into law by Pres. BS Aquino.

According to RA 10368, members of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board should possess the following qualifications: 1) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; 2) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; 3) must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.

“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose. We shall exhaust any legal remedy available so that justice may be served,” Ocampo said.

The petition for certiorari concluded that “It is more than an issue of trust between the Human Rights Claims Board and the human rights victims. It is greater than ensuring confidence in the system supposedly envisioned to bring about justice. It is beyond the integrity of the process of arriving at the compensation to be awarded and the standards to be used in determining compensability and linking it to the rightful beneficiaries. The sum total of these values, though important, does not adequately address the issue against appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board.

The petition said, “The human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities. Compensation is a component of justice. Re-writing the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture. By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity.”

The counsels of the petitioners are from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) namely Attys. Edre Olalia, Julian Oliva, Ephraim Cortez and Minerva Lopez.

A number of Martial Law victims gathered infront of the Supreme Court to support the filing of the petition. ###

Reference: Jigs Clamor, SELDA national secretariat coordinator, 0917-5965859


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Claims board fight goes to SC

By Jr., Leila B. Salaverria, Nestor P. Burgos | Inquirer.net
February 25, 2014

Victims of martial law are taking up another fight against what they consider a monumental injustice.

This time they are waging a legal battle against retired police general Lina Sarmiento, President Aquino’s choice to head the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

The nine-member claims board will receive, evaluate, investigate and approve the applications for compensation of martial law victims.

Assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the victims said they will file a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Sarmiento’s qualifications to head the board on the grounds that she used to be with the Philippine National Police, an agency they accused of violating human rights.

In Iloilo City, former political detainees will join protest actions on Tuesday against Sarmiento’s appointment.

The victims said that under Republic Act No. 10368, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, members of the board should have “a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.”

They must also be of known probity, competence and integrity, and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.

NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia on Monday said the victims were “not questioning the discretion of the President (in choosing the head and members of the claims board). (B)ut we’re questioning (why) the President did not follow the explicit requirements on who should head the board.

No delays

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the filing of a petition against Sarmiento did not have to delay the process of compensating the martial law victims.

Zarate said the claims board was a collegial body and its other members could continue with the task of processing the applications for compensation and determining their amount should Sarmiento’s leadership be restrained.

Among the petitioners in the Supreme Court case to be filed against Sarmiento are members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), whose members were jailed and abused during the Marcos dictatorship.

Travesty

In a statement, Selda said the issue of Sarmiento’s appointment went beyond her qualifications. “It is a travesty of justice… a conscious effort to discredit and dishonor martial law victims,” Selda said.

Olalia, in a separate statement, said Malacañang was being “incorrigible, insensitive and hopelessly stubborn” in insisting on Sarmiento. He said there was no reason the head of the claims board should come from “the most vicious perpetrators of human rights atrocities from the time of the dictatorship…to the present.”

In Iloilo, Selda members criticized Aquino’s choice of Sarmiento, saying that “she belonged to an institution which was among those primarily responsible for human rights violations.”

Others qualified

“Surely there are many others who are qualified and credible,” said Fortunato Pelaez, Selda’s vice president for the Visayas, who was arrested in 1974 as a member of the militant group Kabataang Makabayan. He was detained for 15 months at Camp Crame in Quezon City and at Camp Delgado in Iloilo City, where he suffered torture, including the electrocution of his genitals.

Former political detainee Azucena Porras-Pestaño described Sarmiento’s appointment as an “immoral act” and “insulting” to the human rights victims amid the commemoration of the 1986 Edsa People Power I uprising. Pestaño was a teacher at the then Iloilo City College when she was arrested as a member of the Makabayang Samahan ng mga Propesyonal. She was detained for nine months.

Meanwhile, former senator and human rights lawyer Joker Arroyo who had earlier written an open letter to President Aquino scoring his choice of Sarmiento, on Monday pressed Malacañang to account for the P10-billion in compensation for the martial law victims.

“It would reassure everyone if Malacañang could confirm that the monies allocated to fund the monetary claims of the human rights victims…are still intact,” Arroyo said.—With a report from TJ Burgonio


SC asked to stop appointment of new rights claims board head

Tetch Torres-Tupas | Inquirer.net
February 25, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — A group of human rights victims during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos asked the Supreme Court to stop the appointment of retired General Lina Sarmiento as head of the Human Rights Claims Board.

In a petition filed Tuesday, they urged the high court to nullify Sarmiento’s appointment.

Petitioners represented by the National Union of People’s Lawyers include former lawmaker Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares, Maria Carolina Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi, and Josephine Dongail. They were all arrested, detained and tortured during the Martial Law years.

They said President Benigno Aquino III gravely abused his discretion when he appointed Sarmiento who is not qualified to head the Human Rights Claims Board.

Under Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation Act of 2013, the head of the board must have a “deep and thorough understanding of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the Marcos time.

Sarmiento was a former member of the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police who were among those who allegedly committed human rights violations during Marcos time.

Then, she became chief of the PNP Community Relations Group under the counterinsurgency program of the government, a machinery which petitioners say “attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.”

“The issue of whether respondent Sarmiento meets the exacting qualities [to head the board] is therefore put to serious question. This does not inspire, merit or command trust and confidence in the head of the Board,” petitioners said.


SELDA’s Open Letter to Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III

DSC_0357
February 24, 2014

 

PRESIDENT BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III
President, Republic of the PHILIPPINES
New Executive Bldg., Malacañang Palace Compound
1000 J.P. Laurel Sr. St., San Miguel, Manila

 

Dear Mr. President,

Our warm greetings to you!

We welcome your move in constituting the HR Victims’ Board of Claims that will finally set the implementation of R.A. 10368 that you signed almost a year ago from now.

However, we are quite dismayed and outraged that the provisions of the law as regards the qualification of the members of the Board of Claims were not diligently followed when you appointed former PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento. Not only does she not, we think, fit the qualifications of the member of the Board of Claims, much less the chairmanship of the said body; but she comes from the institution which the majority of the victims pinpoint as one of those that committed grave abuses against their persons and properties during the dictatorship years and even up to now.

That is why, today, the eve of the anniversary of People Power I that catapulted your mother, former President Corazon Aquino; and yes, even you; we are here at the foot of the historic Mendiola bridge AGAIN, EVEN IN OUR SENIOR YEARS, to express our protest at your appointment of former PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as head of the Victims’ Claims Board. Please understand that her presence in the said body will not inspire respect or confidence in the hearts of the victims whose applications, with all their personal details, the Victims’ Claims Board will process.

There are members of your yellow army who may have been victimized during martial law but are now your administration’s apologists and scoff at our righteous indignation against your action and consider it as something we are afraid of because maybe upon Gen. Sarmiento’s use of her investigative skills, fake claimants will be found out among our ranks. We tell these advisers of yours to perish such thoughts because our years as being human rights defenders investigating human rights violations since martial law up to now have led us to the conclusion that there are very few among our police forces with such skills and that many of them are being used by elements of the AFP to whitewash the cases by bungling the investigations.

In the same breath that you ask us to give General Sarmiento a chance, we ask you TO PLEASE GIVE THE VICTIMS A CHANCE.  For far too long have the government security forces including the PNP, lorded it over our political landscape, we think that it is time for the victims to be heard in matters that concern them. R.A.10368 or the Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 has been fought for by the victims for so long; we think that their voices must be heard in the law’s implementation.

Thank you very much for your time and we hope that we, the remaining victims of martial law, who fought very hard a very lonely, oftentimes, thankless battle to let the dictatorship account for its sins against the Filipino people, can be listened to at this time. Mr. President, please be informed that as long as we are alive, we will always struggle for the Filipinos’ collective and democratic rights. On behalf of the National Executive Board of SELDA, I remain,

 

Very sincerely yours,

(Sgd) Marie Hilao Enriquez
Chairperson

RECALL PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY RELIC GEN. LINA SARMIENTO FROM THE MARTIAL LAW VICTIMS CLAIMS BOARD

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Press Statement
24 February 2014

We denounce the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento as chair of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB). After prolonging the formation of the HRVCB for almost a year, the Aquino government made a historical affront to the victims by appointing a former member of the Philippine Constabulary, the forerunner of the PNP, as head of the Claims Board. It is not only her credentials as former PC officer that is an anathema to the historic struggle against martial law, but her zero track records of any involvement in asserting human rights nor any understanding or knowledge ofthe plights and struggles of martial law victims during and after the dark days of Marcos Dictatorship.

On 13 February 2014, Malacañang announced the formation of the HRVCB a year after the passage of RA 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III appointed Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, a retired 2-star general of the Philippine National Police as chair of the HRVCB. To complete the members of the board, also appointed are Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Byron Bocar, Aurora Parong, Galuasch Ballaho, Jacqueline Mejia, Glenda Litong, Wilfred Asis and Erlinda Senturias.

The PC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are the main apparatuses of the Marcos dictatorship in implementing the worst of human rights abuses under Martial Law. It is the PC and the AFP that dispersed rallies, “salvaged,” abducted, tortured, arrested and detained thousands of Martial Law activists. Her presence in the Claims Board does not command respect nor confidence in the hearts of the Martial Law victims.

In appointing Gen. Sarmiento, the Aquino government junks altogether the state’s admission of the atrocities and repression used against the Filipino people, the supposed objective of the law. Instead, it promotes into position those who violated the people’s human rights. This is no different from the Pres. Aquino’s appointment of military officials to higher positions under his presidency.

BS Aquino’s Claims Board does not represent the victims of Martial Law. The Aquino government completely disregarded the provision in the law which underlines that members of the HRVCB should have deep knowledge, capacity and experience in defending human rights. Not a single nominee of SELDA, most of them widely known as Martial Law victims and human rights champions, was appointed to the Claims Board. Much to our dismay, CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales and DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima even came to the rescue by saying said that Gen. Sarmiento is qualified for the job.

However the Aquino government justifies it, the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento goes way beyond the issue of qualifications. It is a travesty of justice. It is a conscious effort to discredit and dishonour Martial Law victims. The Aquino government, which has banked on the people’s clamor for justice and change, is trying to push the people’s struggle for justice farther in the sidelines. The appointment of a PC relic to head the claims board is not only considered a grievous insult to the struggle against martial law but a shameless denial of the ideals in asserting freedom and democracy that was highlighted during the first Edsa People Power in 1986.

With its brandishing of human rights violators in the military and the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento, the people who fought the dictatorship cannot expect anything more from the current administration. It is rather just to continue to fight for justice. SELDA demands the immediate recall to Sarmiento’s appointment.

SELDA has formed the People’s Claims Board (PCB).This will be the primary body to stand for the victims of Martial Law. It will ensure that all who suffered atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship shall be recognized and indemnified. The PCB will also ensure that RA 10368 will be implemented. It will formulate an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which will be submitted to the HRVCB as basis of the law’s implementation.

The PCB will continue to assert that, based on conclusive presumption, the 2,013 Martial Law victims that were delisted (who were part of the 9,539 members of the class suit against the Marcoses filed in Hawaii in 1986) and thosewho will step forward to make themselves recognized will be rightfully recognized and indemnified.

The PCB is composed of individuals actively in defense of human rights, and were victims themselves. They are Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo; SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez; SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan; former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza; University of the Philippines Prof. Judy Taguiwalo; Dr. Edelina dela Paz; Atty. Kit Enriquez, Atty. Marcos Risonarand Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr.

Martial law victims in the regions of Southern Mindanao, Bicol and Panay launched also similar protest actions to express their grievances on the formation of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

SELDA will continue to fight for justice for the victims of human rights violations.As long as the perpetrators are in power, and the Aquino government continues to implement the same policy of extrajudicial killings, abduction and enforced disappearances, illegal arrest and detention, torture and the wanton use of martial law tactics against the struggling people, we will continue to stand and assert for justice. ###

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
           Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator, 0917-5965859


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Recall the apppointment of Gen. Sarmiento as head of HRV Claims Board! Justice to all Martial Law Victims!

smr1
PRESS RELEASE | SELDA-Southern Mindanao Region
February 24, 2014

DAVAO CITY – Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto-Southern Mindanao Region (SELDA-SMR) joins the National Day of Protest today, February 24, 2014 to mark the eve of commemoration of the 28th anniversary of People Power 1 with a protest over Pres. Benigno Aquino’s appointment of a retired police general and former Philippine Constabulary as head of Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

PNP Director Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, was part of the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines who implemented Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law that resulted to gross human rights violations during 1970’s to mid-80’s.

“We are disgusted with the Aquino-formed Claims Board! This is the gravest insult that BS Aquino government inflicted upon the victims of Martial Law. It is unjustifiable that a former PC, the most dreaded human rights violator will lead a group that will process the recognition and reparation of Martial Law victims? How ironic, we cannot simply accept that!” expressed Fe Salino, secretary-general of SELDA-SMR.

It was also last year’s commemoration of People Power 1 when Pres. BS Aquino signed Republic Act 10368 known as “Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013”, with its solemn mandate to provide reparation and recognition of human rights victims of the Marcos regime is invested with the gravitas of history forged in the struggle against a dictatorship. The law is also a culmination of the victims’ struggle and the quest for truth, justice and the condoning of rash and remorseless assaults against freedom and human dignitiy.

Republic Act 10368 states that members of the Claims Board must be of known probity, competence and integrity; must have a deep and thorough understanding of knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion, and advocacy.

Salino asserted that, “The appointment of Gen. Sarmiento manifests Pres. BS Aquino’s arrogance that is bound to marginalize the tens of thousands of human rights violations victims right from the very start. The task of the Claim’s Board is not only monetary compensation but most of all to render justice for the Martial Law victims. Thus, we demand to recall the appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento and we will vow to support the formation of a People’s Claims Board. The People’s Claims Board is composed of known anti-dictatorship activists and human rights advocates, mostly victims of martial law themselves: Makabayan President Satur Ocampo, SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, and SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan.”#

FOR REFERENCE:
FE SALINO, secretary-general, SELDA-SMR,Mobile No. 0921-715-8403

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Opposition mounts vs appointment of police general to human rights claims board

Photo by Interaksyon.com

Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon.com

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition to the appointment of a retired police general to chair the body tasked to process claims of victims of human rights abuses by the Marcos dictatorship continued to mount with a women’s group calling it an “affront to Filipinos” and the victims.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tanggol Bayi said that, “152 women were victims of extrajudicial killing, 31 women were disappeared, while 290 women were illegally arrested and detained” during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when Lina Sarmiento headed the human rights office of the Philippine National Police.

Under the current administration, it added, the human rights group Karapatan has documented 18 women victims of extrajudicial killing, 3 cases of rape of girls, and 33 women political prisoners who were also victims of illegal arrests and fabricated charges.

Earlier, former Senator Rene A.V. Saguisag, who defended human rights abuse victims during the dictatorship, also called Sarmiento’s appointment “illegal.”

Before he became a senator, Saguisag served as spokesman of former President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent, following the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos.

“The appointment of a police general, one from an institution which has systematically spawned rights violations including numerous sexual forms of violence against women since the Martial Law period, is an affront to Filipinos and all victims of human rights abuses,” filmmaker Kiri Dalena, Tanggol Bayi convenor, said in the statement.

Another Tanggol Bayi convenor, Cristina Palabay, accused President Benigno Aquino III of “using a female police official to deodorize stinking institutions with notorious records of human rights abuses.”

“We decry Aquino’s use of the gender card to justify the appointment of a police general to a body that is supposed to deliver justice to women victims of Martial Law,” she said.

Tanggol Bayi also decried what it called Malacanang’s disregard for its women nominees to the claims board, who it said are publicly known for their “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” and “clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy,” qualifications spelled out in the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The group had nominated former Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, one of the law’s main authors, and University of the Philippines Professor Judy Taguiwalo, a victim of the dictatorship and a women’s rights advocate.

It also supported the nomination of Karapatan chair Marie Hilao Enriquez, a veteran human rights activist and daughter of one of the plaintiffs in the class suit against the Marcoses that was the basis of the compensation law.


BS Aquino’s ML Claims Board a distortion of history

PRESS RELEASE | Karapatan.org
February 20, 2014

“The Aquino government chose to commemorate the 28th year of People Power 1 and the fall of the Marcos dictatorship by consigning a general who was part of the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) to head Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.  “The appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento is a subtle way to rewriting history. It obliterates the distinction between perpetrators and victims of human rights violations during martial law,”Palabay added.

Karapatan scored Sarmiento and other Aquino apologists who try to focus on the monetary compensation for the victims of martial law. The task of the Claims Board is not simply “to receive, assess, evaluate, investigate and process applications for compensation of victims of human rights violations” as Sarmiento put it.

“The heart of the matter is justice,” Palabay said. “The Claims board is a mechanism designed by a law that aims, first and foremost, to render justice to martial law victims.”

The law, in fact, specifically states its intent to “recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.”

“Thus, the membership of the Claims Board should reflect the spirit of justice,” said Palabay. “Viewed from different angles, the appointment of Sarmiento is unjustifiable. At best it is ludicrous; at worst, it shows how perverted this government views history.”]

Republic Act 10368 states that members of the Claims Board must be of known probity, competence and integrity; must have a deep and thorough understanding of knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion, and advocacy.

Karapatan joins the demand to recall the appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento and supports the formation of a People’s Claims Board. The People’s Claims Board is composed of known anti-dictatorship activists and human rights advocates, mostly victims of martial law themselves: Makabayan President Satur Ocampo, SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan, former Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza, UP Professor Judy Taguiwalo, Dr. Edelina de la Paz, Atty. Kit Enriquez, and Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr. ###


Mon Tulfo’s Column

mon tulfoOn Target | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ramon Tulfo 
February 20, 2014

Former police director Lina Sarmiento, the first woman to hold a two-star rank in the Philippine National Police (PNP), has been appointed head of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

The board oversees the distribution of P10 billion in compensation to victims of military abuse during President Marcos’ martial law regime.

Sarmiento who?

Sarmiento’s resumé says she was former director of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office.

As someone often approached by people victimized by abusive policemen, I should have been aware of such an office.

I knew Sarmiento headed the Police Security and Protection Group which assigns bodyguards to very important persons or VIPs.

I never heard her defending the human rights of civilians, much more heading an office within the PNP that protects the rights of civilians.

No kidding, is there really such an office?


SELDA forms People’s Claims Board, demands recall in BS Aquino’s appointment of PNP general to recognize ML victims

Press Statement
17 February 2014

SELDA announces the formation of the People’s Claim Board, in protest of the Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s appointment of a PNP general in the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) to implement the law.

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) has repeatedly urged the BS Aquino government to immediately form the claims board. On February 13, more than a week before the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368 turns a year old, the Aquino government through the Commission on Human Rights announced the appointment of PNP Retired General Lina Sarmiento as chairperson of the HRVCB. After a year of shutting off Martial Law victims, the Aquino government arbitrarily appoints a former police general.

BS Aquino’s appointment of Sarmiento is a clear affront to martial law victims. Furthermore, it asserts that the appointment of an ex-PC officer to head the martial law claims board is tantamount to a shameless honoring of an atrocious martial law apparatus.  The defunct Philippine Constabulary is the forerunner of the current Philippine National Police that has records of the gravest human rights violations during the dark days of Marcos dictatorship.

Pres. Aquino clearly disregards the provisions of the law which enumerated the qualifications of members of the HRVCB.  Gen Sarmiento is bereft of credibility, much more, her deep knowledge of martial law atrocities and empathy to its victims is put into question since she is part of the institution accused of rampant human rights abuses during that period.

Apart from being a PC officer under Marcos, Sarmiento was the former head of the PNP’s Human Rights Affairs Office during the Arroyo regime, which has the gravest post-martial law record of human rights abuses. This does nothing to merit her appointment. We express doubts that under Sarmiento’s chairpersonship of Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board will become an independent body.

In forming the People’s Claims Board, SELDA makes this as a parallel body to act both as a watchdog and a monitoring body of Aquino’s HRVCB. The People’s Claims Board priority is to ensure that real and legitimate martial law victims will not be marginalized. There is no room for backing out and toning down our call for justice. ###

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800

Sarmiento, apologist of human rights violators, has no place in the ML victims’ Claims Board – SELDA

News Release
18 February 2014

“An apologist of human rights violators has no place in the Martial Law victims’ claims board,” said SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez in protest of the appointment of retired PNP Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as head of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.

Enriquez explained that victims of human rights violations do not deserve an unqualified person, much more a representative of State forces, to head what is supposed to be a mechanism to recognize state atrocities during the martial law period.

The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), according to RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims and Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013, is the body tasked to evaluate and process the application for claims of the martial law victims.

“The appointment of an ex-PC officer to head the Claims Board is honoring the Philippine Constabulary that committed grave atrocities during the Martial Law regime,” Enriquez said.

The defunct Philippine Constabulary is the forerunner of the current Philippine National Police, which along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines implemented “salvages”, illegal arrest, detention, abduction and torture against people who fought the dictatorship.

Aside from being a PC officer under Marcos, Sarmiento was the former head of the PNP’s Human Rights Affairs Office during the Arroyo regime. “The Macapagal-Arroyo regime had the worst record of human rights violations post-Martial Law. Sarmiento’s position as human rights officer under Arroyo is similarly deplorable,” Enriquez added.

“Pres. Aquino clearly disregards the provisions of the law which enumerated the qualifications of members of the HRVCB.  Gen Sarmiento is bereft of credibility, much more, her deep knowledge of martial law atrocities and empathy to the ML victims are questionable being part of the institution accused of rampant human rights abuses,” Enriquez said.

The Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013 or RA 10368 states that members of the claims board

  1. must be of known probity, competence and integrity;
  2. must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos;
  3. must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.

“We do not see any clear basis for the appointment of Sarmiento; only a conscious effort to discredit and dishonor Martial Law victims. We demand a recall to Sarmiento’s appointment,” Enriquez said.

SELDA formed the People’s Claims Board that will act both as a watchdog and a monitoring body of Aquino’s HRVCB. The priority of the People’s Claims Board is to ensure that real and legitimate martial law victims will not be marginalized.

Members of the People’s Claims Board are former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan, former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza, UP Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, Dr. Edelina dela Paz, Atty. Kit Enriquez and Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr. ###

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800

Appointment of woman police general to HR Claims Board scored

PRESS RELEASE | Tanggol Bayi
February  18, 2013

Women rights group Tanggol Bayi criticized the recent appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento of the Philippine National Police as chair of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board that shall process the recognition and reparation of Martial Law victims.tanggol_bayi

“The appointment of a police general, one from an institution which has systematically spawned rights violations including numerous sexual forms of violence against women since the Martial Law period, is an affront to Filipinos and all victims of human rights abuses,” said Kiri Dalena, Tanggol Bayi convenor.

Dalena said that during the Marcos regime, thousands of women were killed, disappeared, tortured, raped, illegally arrested, and detained by the Philippine Constabulary and other government apparatuses to quell the resistance of the Filipino people against the dictatorship.

“These human rights violations are continued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. During the Arroyo administration, when Sarmiento was part of the PNP Human Rights Office, 152 women were victims of extrajudicial killing, 31 women were disappeared, while 290 women were illegally arrested and detained,” said Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi co-convenor.

Under the Noynoy Aquino administration, human rights group Karapatan documented 18 victims of extrajudicial killing, 3 cases of rape of girls, and 33 women political prisoners who were likewise victims of illegal arrests and fabricated charges.

Palabay added that with Sarmiento’s appointment, “Pres. Aquino is using a female police official to deodorize stinking institutions with notorious records of human rights abuses.”

“We decry Aquino’s use of the gender card to justify the appointment of a police general to a body that is supposed to deliver justice to women victims of Martial Law. While it is important to promote the substantive and democratic participation of women in all political processes, the appointment of Sarmiento does not, at all accounts, indicate that the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged Filipino women who suffered and struggled during the Martial Law period will attain justice, with a representative of their oppressors at the helm of the claims body,” Palabay said.

Tanggol Bayi likewise scored Malacanang’s disregard for its women nominees to the claims board, who are publicly known for their “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” and “clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.” These are minimum qualifications needed for claims board members under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The women’s group nominated former Rep. Liza Maza, one of the primary authors of the said law and a known women’s rights activist, and Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, who is a Martial Law victim and a women’s rights advocate. They also supported the nomination of Marie Hilao Enriquez, a veteran human rights activist and daughter of one of the named plaintiffs in the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses.

Reference: Kiri Dalena, Convenor (0920-9755574)
           Cristina Palabay, Convenor (0917-3162831)

Aquino’s macabre message an insult

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 7, 2014

Edre_Olalia_72Nothing personal, but does Lina Castillo Sarmiento “have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” committed during the Marcos regime? No such evidence on record. And such “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” are mandated by law.

Does Sarmiento “have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy?” Open to serious challenge.

And yet she will head the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board? Why put a woman in uniform, who represents an institution that has historically played its indispensable role in violating human rights, at the helm of a body on human rights? What sort of macabre message is this?

As a Philippine National Police “human rights officer,” she played into the part of the apologist mechanism during the Arroyo administration’s killing spree and the nightmare of disappearances that claimed scores of civilians as victims. Does this record inspire trust and confidence?

And President Aquino had to take a year before he could finally decide to openly dishonor, insult and scoff at the memory and sacrifice of those who raged against the dying of the light.

Incredible callousness on top of signature indolence.

Save maybe for some on the board who may be sincere, those that were at the forefront in the battle against the fascist dictatorship and incorrigible kleptocracy were obviously shut out from any representation by this son of perceived icons of democracy.

Where does the  heart of this government lie? Or is it April Fools’ Day?

—EDRE U. OLALIA,
Secretary General,
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers,
Maaralin corner Matatag Streets Central District, Quezon City

PRIVILEGED SPEECH | On President BSA’s Appointment of Claims Board

PHOTO by newsdesk.asia

PHOTO by newsdesk.asia

Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate
Bayan Muna Partylist
17 February 2013

Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues;

Today, I rise on a personal and collective privilege to speak on a very important issue that has earned the ire of many human rights victims of the Martial Law regime: President Aquino’s February 13 appointment of a former police general as chair of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

Mr. Speaker, the said appointment is an insensitive act on the part of President Aquino — even a dishonor to the memory and sacrifices made by the victims of Martial Law.

Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues: the Martial Law victims waited for nearly three (3) decades after the late dictator was ousted before Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Reparations and Recognition Act was passed into law last year. They were made to wait again for another year before Pres. Aquino finally constituted the Claims Board.

However, other than it was an insult to the victims, the appointment of Police General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as chair of the claims board is also a highly questionable act.

Mr. Speaker, in Section 8 of RA 10368, the qualifications of the nine (9) member-claims board are the following:

  • (a) Must be of known probity, competence and integrity;
  • (b) Must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos;
  • (c) At least three (3) of them must be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten (10) years; and
  • (d) Must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy. Indeed, what really was the involvement of Director Sarmiento in preventing human rights violations during the Martial Law regime? Mr. Speaker, President Aquino cannot feign ignorance of the requirements of the very law that he signed last year.

Callously, instead of appointing as head of the claims’ board a victim or even a representative of the victims, Pres. Aquino choose to give this rare distinction to a representative of the very institution – the Philippine Constabulary, the forerunner of the PNP — that unleashed, along with the AFP, the most brutal human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.

During the previous Arroyo administration, Director Sarmiento was one of its apologistsasthe former Director of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO).

As HRAO chief, she merely swept under the rug charges of human rights violations committed by PNP officers and personnel. She was part of the “denial machine” that attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration. One such case in the past was the manner by which she handled the investigation involving the case of 32-year-old Renante Romagus, a farmer, who had survived from his ordeal after he was forcibly abducted, tortured, held in captivity, repeatedly stabbed and left for dead last December 12, 2007 in Compostela Valley Province, in Mindanao.

According to the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Director Sarmiento, as head of PNP HRAO, dismissed calls for investigations on Romagus case, as she lamely but callously blamed instead the victim’s inability to identify his perpetrators.

Again, we asked General Sarmiento, where were you and what did you do as head of HRAO during the height of the state of impunity involving cases of EJKs and Enforced Disappearance under the Arroyo administration?

Last year, during the AFP-MNLF Zamboanga City standoff, the only claim to fame of Director Sarmiento was her program of bringing in clowns and comedians to entertain the affected residents, but, she was very silent on the reported torture and other human rights violations committed against civilians and suspected MNLF rebels.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, even until today, the very institution that Director Sarmiento represents is associated in many more serious cases of human rights violations. For example, just last month, several PNP personnel were exposed to have been involved in maintaining a torture chamber in Laguna.

On the other hand, it is also appalling to note Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, that after a year of dilly-dallying the appointment of the claims board, President Aquino even bypassed and disregarded nominees from SELDA or the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, an organization of former political prisoners and victims of Martial Law.

SELDA is one of the human rights organizations specifically recognized by RA 10368 to submit nominees to be appointed as members of the claims board.

Mr. Speaker as we closely monitor the actions of this Aquino claims board, I challenged this Chamber, which made possible the passage into law of RA 10368, not to allow President Aquino to desecrate further the said law, even as we continue to fight for justice for the victims of Martial Law and for all the victims of human rights violations.

Thank you, my dear colleagues.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker


STATEMENT OF SELDA–NORTHERN LUZON ON THE COMPOSITION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CLAIMS BOARD

PRESS RELEASE

February 14, 2014

Almost one year after BS Aquino signed the Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act, he has composed the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, has appointed a female two-star general to head the Board, and has significantly snubbed the nominees to the Board proposed by SELDA, the original claimants organization that filed the class suit against the Marcos estate!

This gross insensitivity and arrogance of this president once again proves the low priority that he gives to human rights, that he cannot even rise above his aversion for activists critical of his administration to do the right thing and appoint representatives from the original claimants and victims themselves. Instead he chooses to head the Board with someone from the very institution accused of committing human rights violations and to fill the other slots with people known to have the same dislike for national democratic activists. We challenge the Human Rights Claims Board to rise over its partisanship and to do right by the majority of victims and claimants who are represented by SELDA.

Human rights violations continue under the Aquino administration. It is not only this long delay in the implementation of the law and now questionable composition of the Claims Board. Illegal detention, torture, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances have continued under the P-Noy regime. Many of the victims are indigenous leaders asserting their land rights against large-scale destructive mining and the plunder of the nation’s patrimony and environment. Ongoing militarization of the countrysides in implementation of Oplan Bayanihan has caused the evacuation of communities and the violation of civilian rights. The Philippine government has arbitrarily suspended the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

As long as human rights violations continue, SELDA–Northern Luzon will continue to speak up and assert our human rights.
Assert legitimate martial law victims claims to reparation and recognition!
Free all political prisoners!

Reference: Joanna K. Cariño, SELDA Northern Luzon chairperson 09394549608


“The height of insult and indifference to ML victims!” – SELDA

News Release
14 February 2014

Aquino appointment of PNP general as rights victims claims board chair

“The height of insult and indifference to ML victims!” – SELDA

SELDA expressed disgust over the appointment of a retired police general as chair of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board that shall process the recognition and reparation of Martial Law victims – PNP Director Lina Castillo-Sarmiento.

“This is the gravest insult that the Aquino government inflicted upon the victims of Martial Law. Sarmiento was part of the Philippine Constabulary that implemented, along with the AFP, the worst of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship. How can we accept that?” exclaimed Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of SELDA.

Not a single SELDA nominee was appointed to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, despite a provision in the law which says that SELDA is one of the human rights organizations recognized by the law that may submit its nominations to represent and help recognize victims of the Marcos dictatorship.

“This is not the real sentiments of martial law victims. This is BS Aquino’s Claims Board led by a general originating from the most dreaded human rights violators, the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), a forerunner of the Philippine National Police (PNP),” said Enriquez.

Other appointed members of the claims board are Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Byron Bocar, Aurora Parong, Galuasch Ballaho, Jacqueline Mejia, Glenda Litong, Wilfred Asis and Erlinda Senturias.

Enriquez called the appointment of Sarmiento as “overbearing arrogance of the Aquino government that is bound to marginalize the tens of thousands of rights violation victims right from the start.”

“Pres. BS Aquino made the victims wait too long for the appointment of the claims board only to fail them in the end.  Aquino II’s recent appointments only show how he considers Filipinos who fought for freedom and democracy, and on whose struggle his mother and himself were able to take the reins of government.  We vow even more to assert our call for justice.  We shall monitor and watch closely this claims board of Aquino,” said Enriquez.

A press conference will be held by SELDA on Saturday, February 15, in protest of the Aquino-formed claims board. The panel shall be what SELDA will call as the “People’s Claims Board,” that consists of Martial Law victims submitted for nomination to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board. ###

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 0917-5616800