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

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

February 24, 2014


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

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



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



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

Karapatan reminds Aquino: Same social ills that caused the ouster of two presidents perpetrated by your regime

Press Release | Karapatan
September 21, 2013

Government bureaucrats and their legions in and out of the bureaucracy live on people’s hard labor to load their bank accounts, build business empires, acquire expensive houses here and abroad, buy the most expensive luxury items to indulgence themselves, and to wine, dine, and dance.

Landlords, transnational mining companies, agri-business plantations rob peasants and indigenous peoples of their lands. Capitalists rake in profits by keeping workers’ wages at bare minimum. Private corporations, in cahoots with the government, forcibly evict urban poor dwellers and demolish their houses. The youth are kept out of school because of high education costs, and the sick die without proper medical treatment or even die without seeing a doctor.

The government’s armed forces and paramilitary groups tag civilians as communists. They threaten, harass, arrest, throw false charges against the civilians, detain, and torture them. The armed forces and paramilitary groups abduct civilians, and civilians either disappear or surface dead; armed forces bomb communities of civilians; civilians leave their homes and sources of livelihood to go to evacuation centers.

US and Philippine governments say US troops are here to protect the country from foreign intervention. Without regard for the country’s sovereignty, the President allows the US troops and its warships to enter the country freely. In exchange, the US government gives military aid to improve the fighting capability of Philippine troops to undertake counter-insurgency measures against the Filipino people.

Yes, the images are Marcosian. And, yes the images capture what is currently happening under the Aquino government.  But, the reality is far more biting than these images. People’s lives are on the line, and the children’s future is at stake.

From Marcos through the Aquino government, this reality was never interrupted. The exact names of players may be different, but they are essentially the same. In fact, many survived from Marcos through BS Aquino, to name a few: Marcos-turned-Cory Aquino ally, Juan Ponce Enrile, presidential uncle Danding Cojuangco, business tycoon Lucio Tan who, under the BS Aquino presidency, got off the hook from cases on ill-gotten wealth. Needless to say, the Marcoses and other political dynasties are very much alive.

BS Aquino did not do anything substantial to change all these. He and his spinmeisters merely churned out PR spins, sound bites and surveys meant to condition public opinion.

But, the reality of skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, demolition and forced eviction of thousands of urban poor dwellers, deceptive land reform schemes such as the Hacienda Luisita case, the privatization of almost all public hospitals, high-cost of education, and continuing human rights violations far outweighs lies and spins.

As of August 30, Karapatan-documented cases of extrajudicial killings have gone up to 153, and frustrated extrajudicial killing to 168. There are now 449 political detainees; while documented victims of forced eviction and demolition are almost 13,000 and, forced evacuation nearing 32,000.

And, whatever effect these spins had on the people were finally wiped out when the 10-billion-peso pork barrel scam exploded. People are back on the streets protesting, not only against the scam, but against the pork barrel system, and corruption in general that is committed with impunity.

Widespread protest on the streets, in schools, in workplaces, and in urban and rural areas. In one voice the workers, peasants, women, youth and students, teachers, indigenous peoples, government employees, lawyers, doctors and other professionals, religious leaders and church people call for change, shouted “Enough is enough! Sobra na, tama na!”

BS Aquino should be reminded that such call reverberated and resulted to the ouster of two presidents of the Republic.

Today, as we commemorate the 41st year of the imposition of martial law, the people say “Never Again!” to the same rotten system — of corruption and plunder, injustice, subservience to US dictates, and violations of the people’s rights—perpetuated by the BS Aquino regime. ###

Update: 3rd Bicameral hearing on Marcos victims’ compensation bill

Ngayong hapon, Enero 23, inaprubahan ng bicameral conference committee ang final version ng Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Ito ang produkto ng pinagsanib na bersyon ng Marcos victims indemnification bill na naunang isinulong ng SELDA katuwang ang mga progresibong partylist sa pangunguna ng awtor na isang kapwa Martial Law victim, si Rep. Neri Colmenares.

Sa pinal na bersyon, kinikilala na ang mga biktima ng Martial Law ay kinikilala bilang mga tunay na biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Kasama dito ang mga 9,539 biktima na nagsampa ng class suit laban sa mga Marcos sa Hawaii noong 1986. Pasok ang probisyong “conclusive presumption” na kumikilala sa mga biktima.

Sa Lunes ay iraratipika na ang panukalang batas. Ibig sabihin, matapos pirmahan ng bicameral committee, ito ay itutulak na para mapirmahan ni Aquino. 

Bagamat tiyak na mahaba pa ang labang ito, isang tagumpay ang pagkilala sa mga biktima ng Martial Law hindi lang para sa kanila kundi sa mamamayang Pilipino. Kailangang tiyaking malubos ang tagumpay na ito. Magagawa natin ito sa ating patuloy na sama-samang pagkilos.

Sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng SELDA, mga biktima at kaanak na kumilos sa Senado kanina, mabuhay kayo! Hustisya sa lahat ng mga biktima ng Martial Law! Hustisya sa lahat ng biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao!


Updates: 2nd Bicam Conference Committee Meeting on Indem Bill

Katatapos lamang ng bicameral conference committee meeting sa House of Representatives kaugnay ng Marcos victims compensation bill. Sa pangalawang pagpupulong, umani ng tagumpay ang mga biktima ng Batas Militar sa pagpapasok ng mga mahahalagang probisyon sa pinal na bersyon ng panukalang batas:

1.       Kasama ang SELDA at Karapatan sa consultative body na bubuuin kung paano ipoproseso ang claims ng mga biktima. Nanatili namang bahagi ang SELDA ng nominations committee na magtutukoy kung sino ang lehitimong biktima o hindi. Samantala, hindi nakasama dito ang Karapatan at Claimants 1081.

2.       Tinanggal na ang “peaceful means” sa pinal na bersyon ng panukalang batas. Sa madaling salita, kinikilala nito ang sinumang lehitimong biktima, anuman ang naging porma ng kanyang naging paglaban sa panahon ng diktadura.

Binabati namin ang mga kasapi ng bicameral conference committee sa kanilang pagtindig para sa biktima, gaya nina Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Sen. Chiz Escudero at iba pa. Umaasa kaming patuloy silang titindig sa mga natitira pang agenda sa bicameral conference pabor sa mga biktima ng Batas Militar na matagal nang ipinaglalaban ang hustisya.

Ang susunod na pagpupulong ay nakatakda sa Miyerkules, Enero 23. Ang natitirang contentious na isyu ay ang usapin ng “conclusive presumption,” kontra sa “disputable presumption” na tinututulan ng mga biktima ng Batas Militar.

Iginigiit ng SELDA na ang mga biktima na nagsampa ng class action suit laban sa mga Marcos ay dapat kilalanin bilang mga lehitimong biktima sa ilalim ng “conclusive presumption,” sa halip na muli silang isalang sa proseso ng pagkilala at pagpapatunay na sila ay tunay ngang mga biktima.

Hustisya sa mga biktima ng Martial Law! Ipasa ang Marcos Victims Compensation Bill!

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