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
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.