MANILA, Philippines—As the Aquino administration celebrated the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, victims of martial law went to the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop a retired police director from chairing the board that would determine compensation for victims of the Marcos regime.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo was among those who filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction as well as an application for a temporary restraining order against Lina Sarmiento, whom President Aquino named chair of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
Named respondents in the petition were Aquino, who was accused of committing grave abuse of discretion when he appointed Sarmiento, former chief of the Philippine National Police Community Relations Group under the government’s counterinsurgency program and head of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) before her new appointment.
Ocampo and five other petitioners told the high court that they were aghast that Aquino had appointed a police general to head the claims board.
They said Sarmiento’s appointment was “illegal” and should be declared void as she failed to meet the minimum qualifications for a board member set by Republic Act No. 10368, or the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
In their petition, they said Sarmiento did not meet the requirements that she “must be of known probity, competence and integrity (Section 8a); must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Marcos (8b); and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
The petitioners said the President “may argue that respondent Sarmiento has a track record as a member and officer of the PNP but it cannot be denied that she lacks the mandated qualifications set forth under the law, and the institution she represents lacks the credibility and integrity to deliver justice to human rights victims.”
The petitioners also said that when Sarmiento was HRAO chief, she “became part of the machinery, which ‘attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.’”
One case Sarmiento handled was about farmer Renante Romagus who survived abduction and torture. He was stabbed and left for dead in December 2007 in Compostela Valley province, Ocampo et al. said.
They said Sarmiento dismissed calls for investigations of Romagus’ case “as she lamely but callously blamed instead the victims’ inability to identify his perpetrators.”
They also said Sarmiento was a member of Task Force Usig, created by the Arroyo administration which investigated extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances but which they pointed out had failed to do its job.
The petitioners noted that there was nothing on public record to show that Sarmiento was involved in any effort against atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship.
“If at all, she was a silent, passive, if not acquiescent cog in the security apparatus of the repressive dictatorship,” they said.
Ocampo et al. said their petition was not a question of not only whether Sarmiento was qualified under the law to assume such post but also of whether the President’s act of approving her appointment “contravenes the very essence of the law he is supposed to implement.”
And they said the answer to both questions was “in the negative.”
“Therefore, the illegal and unjustifiable appointment by no less than respondent Aquino, the very person who signed the law and a son of supposed icons of Philippine democracy, of a former police general representative of or coming from an institution that has perpetrated gross human rights violations during the Marcos regime—and even up to the present—negates and renders nugatory the very purpose for which the law was enacted,” they said.
The petitioners said the high court should declare Sarmiento’s appointment null and void because the President had committed grave abuse of discretion.
“By appointing a former police general to head the human rights board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” they said.
Aside from Ocampo, the other petitioners were Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Bayan chair Carolina Araullo, and Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail—members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto.
SAYING the quest for justice is not yet over, President Aquino yesterday signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 (Republic Act 10368), which would compensate human rights victims during the martial law era.
The law, which was signed during the 27th anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, sets aside P10 billion from the seized Marcos assets as reparation for victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violation committed from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986.
The law also concluded that members of the class suit that was decided by Hawaii District Court Judge Manuel Real and human rights victims as recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation are also presumed victims during the martial law regime.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Section 20 of the new law provides for a reward or point system ranging from 1 to 10 which would be used to identify the victims and determine how much compensation they would receive.
Those who died or disappeared or are still missing get 10 points; those tortured and/or raped, four to nine points; detained, two to four points; and forced into exile, kidnapped or otherwise exploited, sexually offended but not raped during military and/or police operations, one to four points.
Claims by the human rights victims or their heirs shall be made within six months after the effectivity of the implementing rules . The law provides that no special power of attorney shall be recognized unless the victim is incapacitated.
A nine-member Human Rights Victim’s Claims Board shall be created that would draft the implementing guidelines and process the applications for compensation.
Non-monetary reparation shall be provided by the education and social welfare departments, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in coordination with the Commission on Human Rights, through the preparation of teaching modules on the abuses committed and heroism shown during the martial law years.
A Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission shall be established in honor of the human rights victims.
Aquino said the People Power revolution does not belong to only one particular group, and called on Filipinos to remember its lessons and put the country’s interests ahead of their own.
He said a united and solid Filipino force is needed to stand against all obstacles in the path towards progress.
The President said the Philippines served as inspiration for other countries after the 1986 bloodless revolution. He said the country is again a new source of inspiration due to its strong fiscal standing amidst the global economic uncertainty and pessimism.
He said Filipinos should be proud of this achievement, and work on ending the economy’s boom and bust cycle.
Aquino led the flag raising ceremony at the People Power Monument that kicked off the day-long activities that marked the Edsa anniversary.
The President was joined by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Cabinet members led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., and members of the Senate and House represented by Senator Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
The President also led the awarding of the Spirit of Edsa Foundation Awards, and witnessed the presentation of a Pledge of Commitment by governors, and religious, business and youth representatives and the “Salubungan” rites that recalled the converging of the military and the people in EDSA to stand against the forces of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
President Fidel Ramos, then AFP Vice Chief of Staff, and former Senator Agapito Aquino – Aquino’s uncle – led the Salubungan.
A statue of Our Lady, credited for the peaceful revolution, was carried by Father Arnold Abelardo who was seated on top of a military tank adorned by yellow flowers. The Salubungan was followed by a shower of yellow confetti from a military chopper.
The Madrigal Singers then led the singing of “Magkaisa” and “Bayan Ko,” after which Ramos and the elder Aquino reenacted the “victory jump,” a reminder of the crowd’s celebration when told that Marcos had left the Palace.
In the afternoon in Malacañang, the President met with busloads of children from various orphanages and told them about martial law and People Power.
He said the younger generation should preserve the democracy and freedom that the country enjoys.
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) said the signing of the reparations law was a “small victory” for the martial victims’ continuing search for justice.
“They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights,” said SELDA chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez.
The group said the passage of the law was due mainly to the persistence of the martial law victims who worked with supporters against those who sought to oppose or delay the measure.
SELDA vowed to guard the 9,539 people included in the master list of martial victims against unnecessary bureaucratic processes and scams that will deprive them of just indemnification.
The human rights group Karapatan said the human rights abuses continue under the present administration.
In a statement, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said yesterday’s commemoration of the EDSA People Power is an “empty exercise meant as a window dressing for the administration’s dismal human rights records.”
The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the political comeback of the Marcoses, 27 years after EDSA 1, points to the failure of all post-EDSA governments to make them truly accountable.
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
Lira Dalangin-Fernandez | InterAksyon.com
February 25, 2013
MANILA, Philippines — Hailing the signing into law of the compensation act for human rights victims during the Martial Law years, victims and lawmakers on Monday said that people should remain vigilant so it would never happen again.
Simultaneous with the 27th anniversary of EDSA People Power revolution, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act as Republic Act 10368, ending the 40-year wait of the victims for recognition and compensation.
“This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the state’s recognition of their suffering under Martial Law. Many years after the Hawaii court recognized us, now it’s our own government who did the same,” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said in a statement.
Colmenares, tortured and imprisoned for four years during the Marcos dictatorsip, said “the overall message of this recognition is that Martial Law must never happen.”
In a separate statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the newly-signed law completes the “trilogy of legislative human rights measures” that he principally authored.
Both Lagman and Colmenares are principal authors of the new law.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, another principal author of the measure, said not one of the victims thought of being compensated at the time they were fighting dictatorship from 1972 until February 1986, adding that it was “purely an act of patriotism.”
He added: “Now that the victims are being recognized for their sufferings, it is time to declare never again to Martial Law. If we have ‘tuwid na daan’ under PNoy (Aquino), we should also have ‘tuwid na kasaysayan’ in order to prevent a wrong presentation of history,” Tanada said.
Lagman earlier authored the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 or Republic Act 9745 and the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10353.
The first compensation act was filed by Lagman as House Bill 2426 during the first regular session of the 10th Congress in August 1995 or almost 18 years ago.
SELDA: victory for victims
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), which led the filing of the historic class suit by the martial law victims against Ferdinand E. Marcos in a Hawaii court, said the signing of the law was a victory for the victims.
“Through their relentless efforts, finally and officially recognized are the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who fought the dictatorship and were victims of human rights violations – summary execution, torture, enforced disappearances and all other gross forms of violations. They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights,” the group said in a statement.
The law gives reparation and recognition to countless victims of human rights violations during the martial law regime from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. Violations covered are summary executions, enforced disappearances, deadly torture and other atrocious violations of human rights and civil liberties.
The claimants and direct plaintiffs in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii who secured a decision in their favor against the estate of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and the martyrs and victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation are conclusively presumed as human-rights violations victims.
Other victims who will be filing their claims for the first time are required to submit their claims together with detailed sworn affidavits narrating the circumstances of the violations within six months from the effectivity of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Act.
A fund of P10 billion, plus accrued interests, is appropriated for the claimants’ reparation which is part of the amount transferred by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to the Philippine Government and which the Philippine Supreme Court forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines as Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth.
Some P500 million, which is part of the accrued interest, will finance the establishment of a museum, library and repository of memorabilia for the victims.
A Human Rights Violations Victims Claims Board (HRVVCB) will be set up to validate the amounts to be granted to the claimants in accordance with the severity of the injuries and damage they have sustained, based on a points system.
The law also mandates the teaching, from the elementary to the tertiary levels, of martial law with its attendant atrocities as well as the life stories and heroism of human rights violation victims.
Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer
A group of martial law detainees on Monday appealed to Congress to automatically consider some 9,000 individuals who won a class suit against the Marcoses in Hawaii victims of human rights violations entitled to government compensation.
Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) directed its plea to the bicameral conference committee, which is hammering out the final version of a bill that seeks to indemnify victims of abuses during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
The remuneration would come from the P10 billion in Marcos ill-gotten wealth that Swiss authorities had returned to the Philippine government after the dictator’s ouster in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Selda, which led the filing of the Hawaii case, said claimants must be conclusively presumed as human rights violations victims, as stated in the House of Representatives version of the bill.
The bicameral conference committee is debating on whether to follow the House version or the Senate version, which states that there is a “disputable presumption” that the claimants are victims, meaning they are subject to validation. The panel is to meet on Wednesday following a first meeting last week.
In a statement, Selda chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said that to make the claimants in the Hawaii case undergo a rigorous validation process again would undermine their efforts to seek justice.
“Such a provision is dangerous, for if this is included and passed into law, the victims who filed and won the Hawaii case will once again undergo and endure the painful and rigorous process to prove that they were indeed violated during martial law,” Enriquez said.
“We are adamant that conclusive presumption should be the principle adopted to automatically consider the 9,539 victims who pursued and won the Hawaii case under the proposed Philippine law,” she added.
Enriquez also said the group was pushing the compensation bill to enforce the 1992 judgment in the Hawaii case, which was to indemnify the martial law victims.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the Hawaii claimants and a coauthor of the bill, also said that it would be dangerous to do away with the conclusive presumption clause.
He said some of the victims may be unable to present evidence to defend themselves if their application for compensation was contested, considering the many years that had passed.
Colmenares would not be filing any application for compensation since he was the author of the bill, but he added that he himself would be hard put to find the evidence to show he was tortured and imprisoned for four years.
And if a Hawaii claimant was denied by the compensation board, it would just lend credence to the Marcoses’ claim that many of those who filed the court case were fake martial law victims, according to Colmenares.
“It is surely unkind to make the Hawaii victims, the majority of whom are very old now, to again relive before the compensation board their rape, torture and sufferings. This is outrageous,” he said.
He also defended the House provision that states that 80 percent of the compensation fund would go to the Hawaii claimants, and the remaining 20 percent to other claimants.
About 10,000 purported victims have filed cases against the Marcoses following the long and tedious court processes in Hawaii. But Congress is not sure how many of those who did not file cases will apply for compensation, especially since 40 years have passed since martial law was declared in 1972.
Selda also said the compensation bill must recognize all human rights violations victims during the martial law regime, and not just those who were exercising their rights “peacefully” as stated in the Senate version.
“It will be the height of historical amnesia and ignorance to only recognize the rights violations against those who ‘peacefully exercised their rights,’ as if the situation during the martial law years would permit such an exercise,” Enriquez said.
She said those who marched and defended themselves against the Philippine Constabulary and those who joined the communist New People’s Army also had rights.
Joker Arroyo slammed
Enriquez criticized Sen. Joker Arroyo for reportedly derailing the panel’s initial meeting last week by insisting, as embodied in the Senate version of the bill, on limiting reparation to those who fought the dictatorship through peaceful means.
“Arroyo wants to exclude those who resorted to armed resistance during martial law, implying that in doing so, they had given up their rights,” Enriquez told the Inquirer after a meeting in the office of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace and unification.
Asked for a reaction, Arroyo’s staff released to the Inquirer without comment a letter from Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, pointing out that the 80-20 ratio provision in the proposed package would nullify the intention of the measure—to give reparation to all victims of human rights abuses.
Arroyo was one of the few prominent lawyers, including the late Jose W. Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada, who defended human rights victims during the martial law years. With a report from Cathy Yamsuan