“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
“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. ###
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. ###
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.
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 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
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.