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.
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.
Recall the apppointment of Gen. Sarmiento as head of HRV Claims Board! Justice to all Martial Law Victims!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
Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition to the appointment of a retired police general to chair the body tasked to process claims of victims of human rights abuses by the Marcos dictatorship continued to mount with a women’s group calling it an “affront to Filipinos” and the victims.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Tanggol Bayi said that, “152 women were victims of extrajudicial killing, 31 women were disappeared, while 290 women were illegally arrested and detained” during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when Lina Sarmiento headed the human rights office of the Philippine National Police.
Under the current administration, it added, the human rights group Karapatan has documented 18 women victims of extrajudicial killing, 3 cases of rape of girls, and 33 women political prisoners who were also victims of illegal arrests and fabricated charges.
Earlier, former Senator Rene A.V. Saguisag, who defended human rights abuse victims during the dictatorship, also called Sarmiento’s appointment “illegal.”
Before he became a senator, Saguisag served as spokesman of former President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent, following the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos.
“The appointment of a police general, one from an institution which has systematically spawned rights violations including numerous sexual forms of violence against women since the Martial Law period, is an affront to Filipinos and all victims of human rights abuses,” filmmaker Kiri Dalena, Tanggol Bayi convenor, said in the statement.
Another Tanggol Bayi convenor, Cristina Palabay, accused President Benigno Aquino III of “using a female police official to deodorize stinking institutions with notorious records of human rights abuses.”
“We decry Aquino’s use of the gender card to justify the appointment of a police general to a body that is supposed to deliver justice to women victims of Martial Law,” she said.
Tanggol Bayi also decried what it called Malacanang’s disregard for its women nominees to the claims board, who it said are publicly known for their “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” and “clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy,” qualifications spelled out in the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
The group had nominated former Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, one of the law’s main authors, and University of the Philippines Professor Judy Taguiwalo, a victim of the dictatorship and a women’s rights advocate.
It also supported the nomination of Karapatan chair Marie Hilao Enriquez, a veteran human rights activist and daughter of one of the plaintiffs in the class suit against the Marcoses that was the basis of the compensation law.
Include all 9,539 Hawaii class suit members
SELDA hits delisting of martial law victims anew
SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) reiterated its demand to reinstate the 2,013 names of delisted Martial Law victims who should receive reparation in any of the settlement agreements.
The 2,013 delisted names are part of 9,539 victims recognized by the Hawaii court who filed a class suit against former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Federal Court of Honolulu in Hawaii in 1986.
According to Marie-Hilao Enriquez, the Hawaii court shouldn’t have wantonly delisted members of the class suit based merely on the reason that they failed to reply to letters sent by the Hawaii court asking for verification of their identity.
“Delisting the victims who were part of those who went after the Marcoses is a grave injustice. They were arbitrarily dropped from the list without notice and without due process, denying them of their right to reparation. We reiterate our demand to Judge Real to revert to the old list of Martial Law victims,” said Enriquez.
In October last year, SELDA filed an opposition on the delisting of members at the Hawaii court, stating that there has been an executory judgment by the U.S. Court of Appeals dated December 17, 1996 that the number of victims who were qualified reparation remain at 9,539.
“This only means that the victims shouldn’t be given more burden to write to the Hawaii courts, or confirm their identities because they have already been recognized as legitimate class suit members and victims,” said Enriquez.
The filed opposition also said that class suit members come from different parts of the archipelago, and many of them are ordinary farmers and workers who may not have the financial means and resources to immediately respond to the said reply required by the court. Many more belong to the informal settlers – the urban poor people who might have been moved from their original residences due to forced evictions and demolitions of their abodes.
“We shouldn’t aggravate their burden anymore, as justice has been so elusive from them. Until now, they are still demanding for the actual implementation of the law recognizing Martial Law victims,” said Enriquez.
SELDA hit the continuous non-implementation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act. It has been almost a year since Pres. Aquino signed the law, but until now, no claims board has been formed. The claims board is the body responsible for the process of recognition and reparation of the 9,539 victims and others who were not part of the Hawaii class suit. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
MANILA, Philippines –President Benigno Aquino III on Monday signed a landmark law, compensating human rights victims of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, 27 years after a bloodless “People Power” revolution ended his reign.
“Nilagdaan natin ang Human Rights Victims Reparation Act of 2013 bilang pagkilala sa pagdurusang dinaanan ng napakarami noong Batas Militar.” Aquino said in his speech during the country’s celebration of the 27th People Power Revolution.
”Hindi natatapos sa paggunita ang ating krusada para sa katarungan,” Aquino said.
Aquino thanked Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada and Senator Serge Osmena who authored the bill, as well as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Ten billion pesos ($244 million) will be distributed to potentially thousands of people who were tortured, raped or detained, as well as relatives of those who were killed, by Marcos’s security forces during his 20-year rule.
Aquino said the law was part of his government’s efforts to “right the wrongs of the past”.
“We may not bring back the time stolen from martial law victims, but we can assure them of the state’s recognition of their sufferings that will help bring them closer to the healing of their wounds,” he said.
Loretta Ann Rosales, an anti-Marcos activist who was tortured by his security forces and now heads the country’s independent rights commission, said the law would finally allow all his victims to feel a sense of justice.
“The law is essential in rectifying the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship and obliges the state to give compensation to all those who suffered gross violations of their rights,” Rosales told AFP.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, the chairwoman of Selda, a group which represents Marcos rights victims, also welcomed the symbolic intent behind the law but said the money was too little to have a meaningful impact.
“There are so many victims that when you divide it to everyone it will not result to much,” Hilao-Enriquez said.
Hilao-Enriquez’s group represents about 10,000 documented victims but she said there were many more who had not been officially registered and may now come forward, such as Muslim communities in the remote south of the country.
Under the law, a “compensation board” will accept and evaluate applications for reparations over the next six months, according to Rosales.
The compensation money will come from about $600 million the government has recovered from Swiss bank accounts that Marcos secretly maintained while he was in power.
The government has accused Marcos and his relatives of plundering up to $10 billion and has so far recovered about $4 billion.
Aquino’s mother Corazon led the “People Power” revolution that saw millions of people take to the streets and force US-government backed Marcos from power. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
Sister Cres Lucero, 70, a human rights supporter, hailed the enactment of the bill into law.
“Isang tagumpay ito para sa karapatang pangtao. Kasi dito talagang pinirmahan ng Pangulo natin ang Compensation Act para sa mga biktima ng martial law,” Cres said.
She underscored the role of justice in the pursuit of freedom.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday signed a law compensating human rights victims during the regime of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, 27 years after a bloodless People Power revolution ended his reign.
Under Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victim Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, P10 billion ($244 million) will be distributed to thousands of people whom Marcos’ security forces tortured, raped or detained, as well as relatives of those who were killed, during his rule.
Speaking at a ceremony in Manila to mark the anniversary of the revolution that was led by his mother, President Aquino said that the law was part of his government’s efforts to “right the wrongs of the past.”
“We may not bring back the time stolen from martial law victims, but we can assure them of the state’s recognition of their sufferings that will help bring them closer to the healing of their wounds,” the President said.
Under the law, a compensation board will accept and evaluate applications for reparations over the next six months. Those victims will be from when Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to the end of his rule in 1986.
“Our crusade for justice does not stop with commemoration. That’s why we signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation Act of 2013, as a recognition of the suffering the victims went through during martial law, and to show that generations may pass but our resolve to right the wrongs of the past will not weaken,” he said.
Moreover, the President said that Edsa should remind Filipinos that they should be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
“I sometimes think that it seems we are fond of the cycle of falling down, standing up, as if we cannot accept that we can move forward and advance without again being wounded, without again being persecuted, without again being hurt. It is hard to admit: we are experts in rising up but it seems we lack advancement and progress,” he said.
“Now that we have risen, let us move forward; let us carry one another and focus our sights on the future; let us dust off our worries and move forward to the realization of our dreams,” Aquino added.
The President thanked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., as well as the bill’s authors—Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada 3rd of Quezon province and Sen. Sergio “Serge” Osmeña 3rd—for their contributions in the enactment of the measure.
The government has accused Marcos and his relatives of plundering up to $10 billion and has so far recovered some $4 billion.
Aquino’s mother Corazon led the People Power revolution that saw millions of people take to the streets and force US-government backed Marcos to step down from power. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
Meanwhile, several human rights victims during the martial law era lauded the signing of the new law.
Loretta Ann Rosales, an anti-Marcos activist who was tortured by his security forces and now heads the Commission on Human Rights, said that the law would finally allow all the victims to feel a sense of justice.
“The law is essential in rectifying the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship and obliges the state to give compensation to all those who suffered gross violations of their rights,” Rosales said.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, the chairman of Selda, a group that represents Marcos rights victims, also welcomed the symbolic intent behind the law but said that the money was too little to have a meaningful impact.
“There are so many victims that when you divide it to everyone, it will not result to much,” said Enriquez, whose group represents about 10,000 documented victims.
She said that there were many more who had not been officially registered and may now come forward, such as Muslim communities in the remote south of the country.
With a report from AFP