February 24, 2014
PRESIDENT BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III President, Republic of the PHILIPPINES New Executive Bldg., Malacañang Palace Compound 1000 J.P. Laurel Sr. St., San Miguel, Manila
Dear Mr. President,
Our warm greetings to you!
We welcome your move in constituting the HR Victims’ Board of Claims that will finally set the implementation of R.A. 10368 that you signed almost a year ago from now.
However, we are quite dismayed and outraged that the provisions of the law as regards the qualification of the members of the Board of Claims were not diligently followed when you appointed former PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento. Not only does she not, we think, fit the qualifications of the member of the Board of Claims, much less the chairmanship of the said body; but she comes from the institution which the majority of the victims pinpoint as one of those that committed grave abuses against their persons and properties during the dictatorship years and even up to now.
That is why, today, the eve of the anniversary of People Power I that catapulted your mother, former President Corazon Aquino; and yes, even you; we are here at the foot of the historic Mendiola bridge AGAIN, EVEN IN OUR SENIOR YEARS, to express our protest at your appointment of former PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as head of the Victims’ Claims Board. Please understand that her presence in the said body will not inspire respect or confidence in the hearts of the victims whose applications, with all their personal details, the Victims’ Claims Board will process.
There are members of your yellow army who may have been victimized during martial law but are now your administration’s apologists and scoff at our righteous indignation against your action and consider it as something we are afraid of because maybe upon Gen. Sarmiento’s use of her investigative skills, fake claimants will be found out among our ranks. We tell these advisers of yours to perish such thoughts because our years as being human rights defenders investigating human rights violations since martial law up to now have led us to the conclusion that there are very few among our police forces with such skills and that many of them are being used by elements of the AFP to whitewash the cases by bungling the investigations.
In the same breath that you ask us to give General Sarmiento a chance, we ask you TO PLEASE GIVE THE VICTIMS A CHANCE. For far too long have the government security forces including the PNP, lorded it over our political landscape, we think that it is time for the victims to be heard in matters that concern them. R.A.10368 or the Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 has been fought for by the victims for so long; we think that their voices must be heard in the law’s implementation.
Thank you very much for your time and we hope that we, the remaining victims of martial law, who fought very hard a very lonely, oftentimes, thankless battle to let the dictatorship account for its sins against the Filipino people, can be listened to at this time. Mr. President, please be informed that as long as we are alive, we will always struggle for the Filipinos’ collective and democratic rights. On behalf of the National Executive Board of SELDA, I remain,
Very sincerely yours,(Sgd) Marie Hilao Enriquez Chairperson
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