Letter to the Editor

Anti-torture advocate-doctor to UN: Pride of victims, challenge to Aquino government

Letter to the Editor
October 30, 2012

The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA extends its warmest congratulations to Dr. June P. Lopez for being elected to the United Nations Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture.

We have known Dr. Pagaduan-Lopez as a committed psychiatric expert who spearheaded the assessment of torture experiences of survivors of human rights violations during Martial Law. She interviewed and reviewed several cases documented by SELDA when it filed the historic class suit of almost 10,000 human rights violations victims against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The election of Dr. Lopez to the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture is a proud moment for Filipinos and for torture victims and human rights organizations who continue to fight for justice and human rights.

Her contribution of extending her medical knowledge and practice to human rights advocacy will definitely give impact to the work of people seeking justice and rehabilitation of torture victims around the world.

It is unfortunate however, that while Dr. June Lopez is recognized for her human rights advocacy and work for the rehabilitation of torture victims, the country she represents continues to lag behind in the implementation of the UN instruments on human rights it is a party to.

While the Philippines became a state party to the OPCAT on April 17, 2012 and despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, many are still victimized. Most of the currently imprisoned 300 political prisoners have been tortured and no perpetrator has been made answerable for their inhuman acts against hapless victims.

The election of a hard-working Filipino and anti-torture advocate to the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of  Torture serves as a challenge to the Aquino Government to genuinely uphold and respect the rights of the Filipino people.

Angelina Ipong
Secretary General

Fighting an abominable legacy called impunity

Published in the The Freeman, Freeman Opinion Section and Philippine Daily Inquirer, Opinion Section

SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Hustisya) and Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) join the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in remembering the 1000th day since the killing of 58 of their kin, and one who remains missing to this day.

Massacres have been a common fare since the dark days of Martial Law. Who will ever forget the Jabidah massacre that killed close to 60 Moro recruits used by Marcos for the “Operation Merdeka,” the alleged annexation of Sabah to the Philippines in 1968.

Then there was the Escalante massacre in September 20, 1985, where some 5,000 sugar-workers, peasants, fisherfolk, students, church people and professionals staged a rally at the town center in Escalante, after which members of the Regional Special Action Force (RSAF) and the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) opened fire at the protesters resulting to the death of some 20 civilians and wounding 30 others.

After Marcos, there was the Mendiola massacre in 1987, where 13 peasants were killed under Cory Aquino’s watch.

It has been 40 years since the declaration of martial law. Yet, like the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, justice is yet to be served to the victims of these massacres.

Impunity is an abominable legacy of the Marcos dictatorship and those who succeeded him, and so is injustice. Unfortunately, Noynoy Aquino, the son of Ninoy, have not ended this atrocious legacy; he has in fact continued to perpetuate it.

Just like those who have gone before them, families of victims of these massacres and other human rights violations have learned and earned a more lasting legacy – to fight repressive rulers and seek justice in whatever way they can.

We have been in this struggle for decades, we have raged and fought a dictator and those who tried to follow in his footsteps. But perpetrators have simply come and gone, unpunished. It is upon the Aquino government to end the cycle of impunity that promotes continuing human rights violations inflicted on the people. But until he does, we will continue to hold him responsible and accountable for these crimes.

We have gone to every corner of the country, if not the world, to demand justice and ask people to support our call. Let us continue these efforts in the coming days, weeks, even years. From victims, let us rise to be defenders of the people and continue to fight impunity. ###

Boni Ilagan, SELDA, Vice Chairperson, 0917-6291241
Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, 0949-1772928

After two years in office, Aquino prolonging the wait for Martial Law Victims

Letter to the Editor

Forty years since the country was put under Martial Law and two years into office of the Aquino administration, Martial Law victims remain at a loss on what is keeping Pres. Aquino from enacting the bill to indemnify and bring justice to the victims of Martial Law.

We have lobbied to our legislators, even protested at the steps of the House of Representatives and the Senate demanding that the bill to indemnify victims of Martial Law be finally enacted into law. The Lower House passed its version of the indemnification bill, House Bill 5990, on March 21. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version, Senate Bill 2615, is still at the Committee on Justice and Human Rights level.

We would like to remind the Aquino administration that the Swiss government has already transferred the Marcos ill-gotten wealth in favor of the Philippine government because the victims had the courage to file charges against the former dictator in Hawaii. Had it not been for the efforts of the martial law victims themselves, the Marcos loot deposited in the Swiss banks would not have been recovered. The fund transfer had been done by the Swiss Government over a decade ago with stipulations that martial law victims be considered in its appropriations.

Victims are not even asking for the full amount. We only asked for one-thirds of the amount knowing fully well that the rest of the Filipino people must also benefit from the returned fund.

We even expressed fears before that the previous Arroyo administration may have dipped its hands into the fund for her election campaign, but the victims were assured that funds for indemnification are supposedly preserved in a trust fund. What is the reason then for Aquino’s foot-dragging?

On June 14 and15, both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to continue meaningful discussions to pave the way for the resumption of the peace negotiations. Indemnification of victims of the Marcos dictatorship will be one of the concerns to be discussed.

Likewise, the issue of compensation of Martial Law victims was mentioned under item number 92 of the Philippine Report to the Universal Periodic Review on May 28 at the United Nations, which included “compensation of the Martial Law victims” as one its commitments in upholding human rights.

With these declarations, we hold the Philippine Government over its promise to act on the indemnification of Martial Law Victims NOW. The waiting has been too long.

Different regimes have ignored our demands. We have expected a swifter action from the son of a former victim of the Marcos Dictatorship. Numerous pronouncements have been made, but Pres. Aquino seems to be going the way of his predecessors.

More than 10,000 victims of Martial Law are waiting for a more positive action from this government.  We are not only asking Pres. Aquino to give us what is rightfully ours. We are demanding him to do his job.

Until then, we will continue to act and overcome all limitations imposed on us in our desire to achieve justice.

Angelina B. Ipong
Secretary General

Oct19: Morong 43 Letter to the Editor

19 October 2010

Letter to the Editor

Dear editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

We extend our gratitude to and commend the Philippine Daily Inquirer for your editorial dated October 17, entitled “Free.” Being firm and standing up for the immediate release of Morong 43 is brave enough to inspire us and our families. You have looked into our plight and condition, even though we are not as prominent and media-exposed as the Magdalo soldiers. You have grasped our situation, sentiments and concerns, though we have been “hidden away from the public.”

Eight months in detention was never easy for us. We still bear the pain and suffering since the day we were illegally arrested. For 36 hours (48 hours for some), we were handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured, physically and psychologically. These experiences of human rights violations can never be forgotten. As health workers who voluntarily gave service even to far-flung communities, we helped in providing health care services to our poor countrymen. Yet the past administration’s desperation to produce “captured NPAs” had victimized us and thousands of other individuals and families critical to former Pres. Arroyo’s anti-people policies.

As we are heading for our ninth month in detention, we appeal to the Aquino administration to be truthful and sincere in giving justice to the Morong 43 and all political prisoners. To rectify the errors should mean freeing us unconditionally and immediately. We also call on our senators and congressmen to uphold justice and call for our release. In our struggle to be free, we aks for the continued support in all forms of the different media organizations, local and international human rights organizations, churchpeople and people in the communities. Your genuine concern to our hardships and suffering proves to be our armor in continuing this fight for freedom and justice.

Morong 43
Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan Taguig