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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.

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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

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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!

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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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