“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
Lawmakers on Monday lauded the signing of a landmark measure providing compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law era, saying the law serves as a recognition to all those who fought the dictatorship of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, an author of the measure who was himself tortured during the Marcos dictatorship, described the signing of the law as a “victory” for all Martial Law victims.
“At last, the long wait for the Martial Law victims is over. This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the State’s recognition of their suffering under Martial Law,” Colmenares said in a statement.
He added that the Marcos compensation law should also serve as a reminder to the youth to always be “vigilant” against violations of human rights in the country.
Earlier in the day, President Benigno Aquino III signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, in time with the 27th anniversity of the EDSA People Power Revolution, which toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
Under the new legislation, P10 billion in funds from the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses will be used to pay the victims.
‘Recognition of heroism’
In separate statements, Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Escudero, co-authors of the Marcos compensation law, also lauded the passage of the landmark measure.
“As one of the co-authors of this law, I personally see this law as a recognition of the heroism that was widespread during the Martial Law: a heroism that rang across hills and blazed through the streets of this country,” Guingona said.
“It is only when we remember the atrocities, the injustice, and the abuses that went on in our past that we, as a nation, can continue to fight against attempts to resurrect these evils. Our memory of Martial Law, kept alive and strong, will ensure that we will never have to suffer the same fate ever again,” he added.
Escudero, who sponsored the measure as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, likewise said that the signing of the reparation law gives “true meaning” to the celebration of the EDSA revolution.
“While it took all of 27 years for the state to finally recognize the atrocities it inflicted on Filipinos whose democratic rights were suppressed under Marcos, the compensation law seeks to give justice to victims of the dark days of oppression and hopefully give an assurance that it will not happen again,” he said.
The group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), for its part, likewise welcomed the signing of the Marcos compensation law, but warned of “attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase from the memory of our people, the dark days of the dictatorship.”
“There are those among the architects of martial law who remain scot-free and unpunished. The most notorious culprits have been allowed to regain their political power and influence,” the group said in a separate statement.
SELDA, which led the filing of a class suit by Martial Law victims in a Hawaii court, likewise said that it will closely monitor the implementation of the new law.
“We dedicate this small victory to all martial law martyrs and heroes who have gone before us. We will continue to honor them, as we ensure that this law shall be implemented to the best interest of the victims and the Filipino people who survived martial law,” it said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an author of the measure whose brother was a victim of enforced disappearance during the Marcos regime, meanwhile said that the compensation bill “completes the trilogy of legislative human rights measures.”
In 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Anti-Torture Law. Last year, President Aquino enacted the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. —KG, GMA News