Statement of SELDA on the passage of the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013Press Release February 25, 2013
Twenty seven long years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, a law confirming the atrocities and human rights violations under martial law is finally signed into law. The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA, which led the filing of the historic class suit by the martial law victims against Ferdinand E. Marcos in a Hawaii court, welcomes the passage of the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
This is another victory of the Martial Law victims in their continuing struggle for justice. 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 struggle was protracted. The process was agonizing and tedious. Scores of members of the Philippine Congress, in cahoots with the Marcoses and the military who vehemently opposed the passage of the law, tried to block its passing. In some instances, they deliberately delayed the process or watered down the crafted bill.
Now, with a regime posturing as a “champion of human rights” and trying to score credits for its passage, the law was passed but mainly due to the persistent efforts of the martial law victims themselves. Tirelessly working hand-in-hand with progressive party-lists and likeminded legislators, the bill was finalized and ratified. Generally, the law is acceptable to the victims and survivors of martial law.
We take this opportunity to commend and express our gratitude to Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño, who stood with us since the filing of the bill, pursuing the most pro-victim provisions, and consistently pushing, on behalf of the victims, the legislature to finally approve the bill. We also appreciate the support of Senators Chiz Escudero and TG Guingona, and Reps. Edcel Lagman and Erin Tañada.
Here and abroad, we were supported by various peace, justice and human rights advocates in the campaign for the bill’s passage. We extend our solidarity and gratefulness to solidarity groups in the United States, Hong Kong and Switzerland who warmly supported and mobilized in the campaign for the passage of the law, as well as in helping the victims every step of the way. We also thank the members of Parliament of Switzerland as well as its mission in Geneva for lending an ear to the victims’ pleas every time we lobby for their support. Most of all, we commend and deeply thank the members of the peace panel and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who tirelessly asserted, in the process of all peace negotiations with the Philippine government, that the victims of Martial Law should attain justice.
It is with pain and regret for us to witness the passage of this law at a time when many of our fellow victims and colleagues, who took part in the struggle against martial rule, have gone ahead of us. Also, there are still attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase in 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.
Under the law, the Philippine government is obliged to recognize and give reparation to the victims of human rights violations during martial law. While all the sacrifices and heroism of the Filipino people during martial law is priceless, we see these both as an affirmation to the people who struggle for justice, and as a warning to those who will continue to impose fascism and terror upon the Filipino people.
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.
We may be jubilant, but we continue to watch with vigilance. To fully ensure that the law will serve the rightful victims and claimants, we will try to make sure that the HRV Victims Claims Board shall be composed of individuals who, in one way or another, know and can feel with the victims and have been involved in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorial regime.
We take cognizance that SELDA is part of the recommending entities to the Claims Board. We challenge the administration to appoint nominees of SELDA despite some government officials’ bias given SELDA’s political stands.
Also, it should be ensured that those who are included in the master list of the 9,539 victims and those who will consequently file their claims are those who were genuinely part of the struggle against martial law. We should guard against unnecessary bureaucratic processes and scams which will deprive the victims of just indemnification.
We should also take the opportunity to make the younger generation learn, understand and take on the challenge of having the same daring, vigilance, militancy and commitment to justice and human rights.
It has been 40 years after martial law but human rights violations continue to be committed, and with impunity. There has not been much change except for the worse under the dispensations that succeeded the U.S.-Marcos regime. The Marcos laws and executive orders were retained by the succeeding administrations. The militarist mindset and fascist machinery remain intact especially with the continuous implementation of the US-backed counter-insurgency programs
As long as human rights violations continue, with or without martial law, we stand with the people for justice, democracy and human rights. NEVER AGAIN will we allow the enemies of the people to perpetuate the same injustices, oppression and exploitation against the majority of the Filipino people. ###
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-561-6800
SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan proudly represented the victims of human rights violations during Martial Law, at the 27th People Power Anniversary gathering at EDSA. In a speech delivered at People Power Monument, Ilagan said that the law is meaningful – beyond the monetary compensation, it is a step in keeping the memory etched in our nation’s history. Now known as the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is a victory and a tribute for the people who fought the dictatorship. It is a product of a decade-long struggle of the victims, a testimony of the struggle in society, and the people’s historic task to end the prevailing culture of impunity.
Justice, freedom and democracy are not served on a silver platter – these are fought for. Hear the victims-heroes of Martial Law – NEVER AGAIN!
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