The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) today welcomes with guarded enthusiasm, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s recent statements at the ASEM meeting in Laos to compensate victims of martial law.
“We have waited for this far too long now and President Noynoy Aquino has in fact mentioned this as one of his priority bills in last year’s SONA, but until now, this is yet to be realized,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of Selda. “We are hopeful that with this current pronouncement, the bill to compensate the victims will finally be enacted into a law.”
The human rights group clarified that not all of the $680 million Marcos Swiss deposit will go to the victims and that only one-third will be used for the compensation; and this is the equivalent of P10B. “We recognize that the money is for the Filipinos and that it must be utilized for land reform. We only asked for a small portion of Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth for compensation,” Enriquez stated.
SELDA only wishes that the victims will no longer be made to wait more than they have already done. Furthermore, the human rights group urged
the Senate to pass a bill that would reflect the voice of the victims and remove provisions inimical to the interests of the victims.
SELDA has been lobbying for the Senate to revise and pass SB 2615. The Committee on Justice and Human Rights said it is still awaiting the comments of Senator Joker Arroyo on the bill before they submit it for plenary debates at the Senate. The House version was passed on March 21, 2012.
SELDA Chairperson, Marie Enriquez, brought the bill’s status to the attention of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in September as well as the Human Rights Committee in October both in Geneva, urging the said bodies to remind the Philippine government of its commitment to compensate the martial law victims. In her oral intervention at the September Human Rights Council session at the adoption of the Philippine UPR report, Enriquez “particularly took note of Switzerland’s UPR recommendation to compensate the victims of martial law” especially since the Swiss government has already transferred the US$680M Marcos Swiss deposits in favor of the Philippine government in 1997 yet.
SELDA asserts that compensation to human rights violations victims like the martial law victims is a component of justice that is enshrined in the UN instruments as well as in the Philippine Constitution. Thus, the victims’ demand for indemnification are just and the portion of the funds that Marcos stashed in Swiss banks and have been transferred by the Swiss government rightfully belong to them.
SELDA will be watching and will continue to press for the government to deliver on its promise. ###
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson, SELDA
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.
Reference: Angelina B. Ipong Secretary General 09499587373