Karl John Reyes | InterAksyon.com
Families of victims of Martial Law atrocities led by a human rights group urged the Senate on Monday to pass a compensation bill now pending in one of its committees.
“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…level,” Roneo Clamor, national coordinator of Samahan ng ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya.
However, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero debunked Clavor’s claim that Senate Bill 2615 is still pending at the committee. He said that the committee report is scheduled for plenary debate. The committee is still waiting for inputs about the report from Senator Joker Arroyo.
“Senator Arroyo wanted to make revision and reviews on the report before sending the bill for plenary debates,” said Escudero, whose late father Salvador, served as Agriculture Minister of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Marcos placed the entire country under Martial Law on September 21, 1972. Among those who implemented military rule was Marcos’ defense minister and now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“We are finished in the Committee but still waiting for the inputs of Senator Joker Arroyo. Ipinasa ko iyon sa last congress, we approved in on third reading but the House did not,” Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights said.
Appeal from a victim’s son
Meanwhile, Ronnie Manalo, 49, of Capas, Tarlac appealed to the Senate to immediately pass the bill to indemnify his family, including other families and survivors of the human right violations during the Marcos dictatorship.
“Walo po kaming kaanak ng biktima ng Martial law na nandito. Ngayon, 49 years old na ako, wala pang katarungan hanggang ngayon, wala pa simula nang mapatay ang aking ama noong June 24, 1970 sa San Rafael, Tarlac,” Manalo said.
When he was six years old, his father, Romulo was allegedly killed by armed men after attending a farmer’s meeting in a sitio in San Rafael, Tarlac on June 24,1970.
“Napatay po ang aking ama na si Romulo Manalo sa isang masaker sa San Rafael, Tarlac noong June 24, 1970. Sabi nila papunta sila sa meeting, noong pag-uwi, hinarang sila ng mga may baril na military,” Manalo said. (My father, Romulo Manalo, was killed in a massacre in San Rafael, Tarlac on June 24, 1970. He left to attend a meeting but on the way home, he was blocked by armed military men.)
“Humihingi po kami ng hustiya at katarungan sa panukalang batas na ito. Pinatay po ang aking ama noong anim na taong gulang pa lamang ako, kaya ngayon nandito ako upang humingi ng hustisya at katarungan,” Manalo concluded. (My father was killed when I was just six years old which is why I’m here seeking justice.)
Legislation is needed to allot part of sequestered funds from the Marcoses’ wealth for the victims of Martial Law because the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides that all sequestered assets from the Marcos family should be spent for land reform.
In 1995, the Federal Court of Hawaii found Marcos guilty of grave human-rights violations in a class suit filed by Selda and awarded $2 billion in compensatory damages to the victims.
There were 9,539 complainants in the class suit against the Marcoses.
Three years later, the Swiss government transferred $640 million to the Philippine government. The Philippine Supreme Court ordered its transfer to the national treasury in 2003.
Marcos hands-off on the bill
For his part, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., said he will not either participate nor vote on the Compensation Bill since it involves his family in the suit.
“Again, lahat ng compensation on human rights and their legal action for the compensation is now on the hands of the national government. As I said before, all cases on human rights victims including compensation, we don’t appear in court. We are not the party anymore, binitiwan na namin. Whatever the court’s decision, it is now with the human rights victims and the national government,” Marcos explained.
“I have to refuse to participate in the deliberation of the bill because it involves my family. So hindi naman tama na boboto ako, one way of another,” he said.
Dennis Carcamo | Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Members of a rights group on Monday marched to the historic Don Chino Roces Bridge near Malacañang to demand from the Aquino administration the indemnification of the victims of rights violations during the imposition of Martial law 40 years ago by the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) also scored President Benigno Aquino III’s government for alleged negligence, resulting to unmonitored withdrawals from the account of Imelda Marcos’ account at the Philippine Veterans Bank.
The P36.55 million Marcos ill-gotten wealth under the name of Mrs. Marcos, has shrunk to a little over P1 million despite the garnishment order by the Sandiganbayan, SELDA said.
Earlier in August, martial law victims suffered another setback after the Singapore Court ruled to award the $23 million Marcos ill-gotten wealth to the Lucio Tan-led Philippine National Bank. Tan is a known Marcos crony.
“We take on Mendiola once again just like 40 years ago so that the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino [would] hear and know that we are still here and that 40 is not just a number to remember, but also a reminder of the length of time we have been fighting impunity and for the attainment of justice,” Selda chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
“All we get from the Aquino government are reports of failure after failure,” Enriquez added.
Selda also scored the state of the indemnification bill at the Senate.
“Inaamag na ata ito sa Senado,” Selda board member Trinidad Herrera said.
From the Don Chino Roces Bridge, the group marched to the Senate in Pasay City and held a noise barrage.
“Our senators should remember that they owe us a law that should have been implemented by now. What are they waiting for, another 40 years?” Herrera said.
The Senate Committee on Human Rights reported that it’s still completing the signatories to the bill before bringing it to the plenary.
The bill has been pending in Congress since 1997.
Chito Chavez | Manila Bulletin
MANILA, Philippines — As the country marks the 40th anniversary of martial law this month, activists held a protest rally at Mendiola Bridge on Monday to denounce the Aquino administration for the unmonitored withdrawals from former first lady and now Congresswoman Imelda Marcos’ account at Philippine Veterans Bank.
Members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) said the Php 36.55 million Marcos ill-gotten wealth under the former first lady’s name is down a little over R1 million despite the garnishment order of the Sandiganbayan.
Earlier in August, the martial law victims suffered another setback after the Singapore Court awarded the $23 million of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth to the Lucio Tan-led Philippine National Bank (PNB).
Selda claimed that Tan is a known Marcos crony.
“We take on Mendiola once again just like 40 years ago so that the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino hears and knows that we are still here and that 40 is not just a number to remember but also a reminder of the length of time we have been fighting impunity and for the attainment of justice,’’ Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Selda chairperson, said.
The group maintained that impunity still reigns after decades of struggling for justice.
“After overthrowing Marcos, we filed and won the now historic Hawaii class suit for victims of martial law. But even under the present “matuwid na daan (right path)” of Noynoy (President Benigno S.) Aquino, we continue to suffer from injustice,” Enriquez said.
“All we get from the Aquino government are reports of failure after failure. When are we going see this administration seriously work for the justice that we, survivors of that dark regime, truly deserve?” she said.
Trinidad Herrera, Selda board member deplored the state of the indemnification bill at the Senate. “It probably has grown mold at the Senate,” Herrera said of the measure.
The Senate Committee on Human Rights reported that it is still completing the signatories to the bill before bringing it to the plenary.
The group claimed the bill was first filed in 1997 and has never been signed into law up to the present even as Aquino rants about being a victim of martial law.
“We are not pawns that the government can use for their electoral campaign. The bill must be passed for the indemnification of victims and not as a publicity tool to enhance the image of those eyeing re-election,” Trinidad added.
Henry Ateulan, Radyo Patrol 44 | DZMM Radyo Patrol 630
Nagsagawa ng noise barrage sa harap ng Senado ang may 200 biktima ng Martial Law bilang pagbatikos sa anila’y ill-gotten wealth ng pamilya ni dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos.
Pinangunahan ng Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) ang aktibidad.
Isinisigaw ng grupo, ang anila’y kawalan ng aksyon ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino para i-monitor ang walang habas na withdrawal mula sa account ni dating first lady Imelda Marcos sa Philippine Veterans Bank.
Binabanggit pa nila na mula sa P36.5 milyon na ill-gotten wealth umano ng mga Marcos, umaabot na lang ito sa P1 milyon na naka-deposito.
Umaapela rin ang grupo sa mga senador, partikular na sa Senate Committee on Human Rights na isabatas na ang Indemnification Bill o panukalang magbibigay ng karapatan at kabayaran sa pinsalang idinulot ng batas militar.
Ang aktibidad ay isinabay sa ika-40 taon ng pagkakatatag ng Martial Law na idineklara ni dating Pangulong Marcos noong Setyembre 21, 1972.
Joe Torres | UCANews
Marcos’ victims demand payout
Sufferers of tyranny still wait for compensation
Victims of human rights abuses during Ferdinand Marcos’ 20-year dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s have called for justice and compensation as the country marks the 40th anniversary of the imposition of martial law this month.
At least 100 victims marched to the presidential palace and the Senate building in Manila today to demand what they described as “overdue justice.”
“We are still here,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez of SELDA, an organization of former political detainees. ”Forty is not just a number to remember but also a reminder of the length of time we have been fighting.”
After decades of struggling for justice, “impunity still reigns,” Enriquez said.
What the victims of martial law get from the government are only reports of “failure after failure,” she added.
Martial law was declared on September 21, 1972 and lasted until 1981, when Pope John Paul II first visited the Philippines. It was declared to suppress what Marcos claimed to be increasing civil strife and a threat from communism.
Marcos’ subsequent rule became unpopular due to widespread human rights abuses by the military, such as the use of torture on political activists.
After his ouster in 1986, activists filed a class suit against him in a US court where he was found guilty of human rights violations. The Marcos estate was ordered to compensate around 10,000 victims.
Trinidad Herrera, a former political detainee, said a congressional bill designed to do this seems to have “grown mold” in the Senate.
“Our senators should remember that they owe us a law that should have been implemented by now. What are they waiting for, another 40 years?” he said.
The bill was first submitted in 1997 but has yet to pass through Congress.
Once approved and signed into law, the government is supposed to compensate victims using funds seized from Marcos.
“The bill must be passed for the indemnification of victims and not as a publicity tool to enhance the image of those eyeing re-election,” Herrera said.
SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Hustisya) and Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) join the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in remembering the 1000th day since the killing of 58 of their kin, and one who remains missing to this day.
Massacres have been a common fare since the dark days of Martial Law. Who will ever forget the Jabidah massacre that killed close to 60 Moro recruits used by Marcos for the “Operation Merdeka,” the alleged annexation of Sabah to the Philippines in 1968.
Then there was the Escalante massacre in September 20, 1985, where some 5,000 sugar-workers, peasants, fisherfolk, students, church people and professionals staged a rally at the town center in Escalante, after which members of the Regional Special Action Force (RSAF) and the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) opened fire at the protesters resulting to the death of some 20 civilians and wounding 30 others.
After Marcos, there was the Mendiola massacre in 1987, where 13 peasants were killed under Cory Aquino’s watch.
It has been 40 years since the declaration of martial law. Yet, like the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, justice is yet to be served to the victims of these massacres.
Impunity is an abominable legacy of the Marcos dictatorship and those who succeeded him, and so is injustice. Unfortunately, Noynoy Aquino, the son of Ninoy, have not ended this atrocious legacy; he has in fact continued to perpetuate it.
Just like those who have gone before them, families of victims of these massacres and other human rights violations have learned and earned a more lasting legacy – to fight repressive rulers and seek justice in whatever way they can.
We have been in this struggle for decades, we have raged and fought a dictator and those who tried to follow in his footsteps. But perpetrators have simply come and gone, unpunished. It is upon the Aquino government to end the cycle of impunity that promotes continuing human rights violations inflicted on the people. But until he does, we will continue to hold him responsible and accountable for these crimes.
We have gone to every corner of the country, if not the world, to demand justice and ask people to support our call. Let us continue these efforts in the coming days, weeks, even years. From victims, let us rise to be defenders of the people and continue to fight impunity. ###
Reference: Boni Ilagan, SELDA, Vice Chairperson, 0917-6291241 Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, 0949-1772928
I wrote many years back that, for the martial law torture victims, the “unkindest cut of all” is not in being forgotten but in being misunderstood. The other day, they suffered another legal setback, in yet another instance of foreign courts misunderstanding the role of the extraterritorial adjudication of human rights abuses.
The US court returned the case to us because it lay “within the province of Philippine national sovereignty.” Yet why did the victims turn to American courts in the first place? Because our local courts were loath to act on the victims’ desperate pleas.
In 1995, the human rights victims won $2 billion in damages in a Honolulu court. In that case, 9,500 human rights victims filed suit against the Marcos estate, citing a leading 1980 American case, Filartiga v. Peña Irala, wherein US courts were allowed to try human rights violations committed abroad even when both the torturer and the victim were foreigners (or in legalese, without any jurisdictional link to the forum). To this day, that judgment is largely unenforced.
That is why the victims recently tried to collect some $35 million held in a US bank in the name of a dummy Panamanian corporation formed by the Marcoses in 1972 (the year martial law was proclaimed). However, they were opposed by the Philippine government, which claimed the sum for itself. Our own Sandiganbayan had earlier found that the moneys were ill-gotten wealth purloined by the Marcoses, and declared them forfeited in favor of the Philippine government.
The Philippine Supreme Court has also declared that all the ill-gotten wealth “supposedly originated from the government itself [and to] all intents and purposes belong to the people [and] must be returned to the public treasury.” Thus we encounter the first irony: The human rights victims are pitted against the Filipino people and the government that represents them.
The second irony is that these funds, once recovered, are earmarked for agrarian reform. This will pit the human rights victims against the Filipino peasantry. Each group holds a powerful claim to justice: the peasants to the land they till, the torture victims to the monetary compensation for their suffering. Yet this tug-of-war is by no means inevitable or necessary. Indeed, the two groups should be natural allies because the activists are fighting anyway for peasants’ rights, among their many causes. What sets them against one another? It is actually Philippine law that forces them to claim against the same pot of money. In other words, we could have structured it differently so that it’s not a zero-sum game.
This was not the only time that the victims’ pleas were frustrated by the Philippine government. When the victims tried for “recognition and enforcement of foreign judgment” and tried to enforce the Honolulu award in a Philippine court, our local courts mechanically and unsympathetically levied a stiff filing fee; after all, the filing fee is computed on the basis of the award sought to be enforced, in this case, $2 billion. The martial law victims had to go all the way to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which sustained the victims and held that the local courts had thereby denied them an effective remedy under Philippine law.
The third irony is that, the last time some $384 million was transferred by the Swiss to the Philippine government, it ended up being used in the 2004 “fertilizer fund scam” to fund the presidential campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The foreign court thought it was doing the right thing giving back the money to the Philippine government.
It is significant that today, the leader of the human rights claimants is no less than the chair of the Commission on Human Rights, Loretta Ann Rosales. She said: “I feel rather sad that a historical judgment won for victims of martial law … should be resisted by purely legal arguments, blind to the spirit of the historical judgment: Compensate those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.”
The final irony for “those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today” is that it is that freedom that has allowed our courts to look the other way. Not a single Philippine court has ever dared hold Ferdinand Marcos liable for the disappearances, torture and arrests under his regime. This has forced his victims to turn to American courts for justice. It has taken a Honolulu court to render them the justice that Philippine courts have failed to give. And now our courts, called upon merely to enforce a judgment that foreign courts have done them the favor of making, have faltered and balked.
More than a quarter-century after the restoration of democracy, it is time for a political solution in the form of a compensation bill passed by Congress. Some have raised the issue of how to rectify injustices suffered in the distant past. Remember that victims of the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II were compensated only under President Bill Clinton, a good 50 years later. The passage of time should not be a problem.
Another “distant past” issue arises when the actual human rights victim has died and the claimant is usually another family member. To start with, a good number of the actual sufferers are still alive and indeed are precisely in the twilight of their years when they direly need the award. But even otherwise, the typical children of the human rights victims rightly deserve to partake of the award since they, too, have suffered a part of the ordeal that their parents endured.
The recent setback before US courts must prod our Congress to finally pass the compensation bill to bring closure to this dark chapter in our nation’s story.
ALBANY, New York—New York courts have dismissed the claim by victims of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos for more than $35 million from a US brokerage account, citing the competing claim by the Philippine government upheld by its own highest court.
The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest judicial body, says the state’s courts for now “should not intercede” in a case that remains within the province of Philippine national sovereignty.
If the assets belong to that country’s people, also victimized by the Marcos regime that was overthrown in 1986, the court says the assets should be returned.
Marcos was sued in the US federal court in Hawaii, where he fled, on behalf of some 10,000 victims of arrest, torture and execution. The plaintiffs obtained a nearly $2-billion judgment after he died and now seek related assets.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), an organization of former political prisoners, said in Manila that the decision was “disheartening for the victims.”
Proves Marcoses stole
“At the same time, I’m also happy because that proves that the Marcoses stole money from the people, and that should be returned to the Filipino people. In effect, the court ruled in favor of the Philippine government,” she said by phone.
“The problem is, it might be stolen again if it’s returned to the people,” Enriquez said, recalling that part of the $386-million ($630 million in 2004) “Marcos loot,” which the Swiss Supreme Court ordered transferred to the Philippines in 1997, was used in the 2004 “fertilizer fund scam.”
Enriquez, daughter of one of the original plaintiffs in the class suit filed against the Marcos family, said lawyer Robert Swift made the claim for the victims to fund the $2-billion judgment.
Selda filed a class action suit for 10,000 victims before the US Federal District Court System on April 7, 1986. The court ruled against the Marcos family on Sept. 22, 1992, finding the dictator guilty of crimes against humanity. The court ordered the Marcos family to pay exemplary damages of $1.9 billion and later, compensatory damages of $776 million to the victims.
Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said in a text message: “I feel rather sad that a historical judgment won for victims of martial law—the first court to declare Marcos guilty of human rights violations—should be resisted by pure legal arguments, blind to the spirit of the historical judgment: compensate those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today. It’s a sad day.” Reports from AP and TJ Burgonio in Manila