SELDA continues to protest Pres. BS Aquino’s appointment of former PNP General as head of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board; exhorts
Victims to urge Pres. Aquino to nullify appointment of former PNP General Sarmiento
“It’s a yellow-colored rehabilitation of Martial Law,” SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez called Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino’s defense of the appointment of former PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.
The group returned to Mendiola on Friday to demand the nullification of the President’s appointment of Sarmiento, a member of the defunct Philippine Constabulary during Martial Law and later on became a two-star general of the present PNP.
According to Enriquez, the appointment of the former general is not only a scheme “to marginalize the legitimate victims of the Marcos fascist regime but also an attempt to deodorize and prettify the image of the police and the military as dreaded martial law apparatuses.”
Three protesters, dressed as Pres. Aquino, Sarmiento and CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales, painted yellow the rolls of concertina wire on steel frames blocking the road going to Malacañang. The act symbolizes the scheme of the Aquino government in trying to conjure a police-military effort of dispensing reparation by appointing a former general to head the martial law victims’ claims board. “If this is not callousnes, then this is an asinine behaviour of a president who lacks deep understanding of history on the people’s role in the struggle against martial law,” Enriquez added.
“The Aquino administration is trying so hard to defend this shameless appointment by shrugging off criticisms from different groups, institutions and personalities who have fought martial law. Does this foretell how the Claims Board (HRVCB) will act on the victims’ clamor for the long-overdue justice? We all know that justice should be rendered soon especially that many of the victims worthy of recognition and reparation are in the sunset of their lives. But isn’t Pres. Aquino’s defense of Sarmiento’s appointment a way of killing us softly? Rubbing more salt into a gaping injury? exclaimed Enriquez.
SELDA reiterated its position that Pres. BS Aquino’s appointment is a total disregard of the provisions stated in Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which state that the members of the HRVCB should have deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations during the regime of former President Marcos.
“It is not only her credentials as former PC officer that is anathema to the Filipinos’ historic struggle against Martial Law, but her zero track record of any involvement in asserting human rights nor any understanding or knowledge of the plights and struggles of Martial Law victims during and after the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship,” said Enriquez.
The group maintained that former PNP General Sarmiento should not head the Claims Board, being part of the PC which, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, became the main machineries of the Marcos dictatorship in implementing the worst of human rights abuses under Martial Law. It was the PC and the AFP that dispersed rallies, “salvaged,” abducted, tortured, arrested and detained thousands of Martial Law activists. Up to the present, these military apparatuses are still the violators of human rights. “Thus, General Sarmiento’s presence in the Claims Board does not inspire respect nor confidence in the hearts of the Martial Law victims, even if the President’s apologists have positively endorsed her appointment, ” Enriquez said.
“In appointing former PNP Gen. Sarmiento, Pres. BS Aquino is deceptively doing a doublespeak: while supposedly supporting the ML victims’ cry for justice by finally implementing the law that recognizes their contribution to the struggle for human rights, the government junks altogether the state’s admission of the atrocities and repression committed against the Filipino people, the supposed objective of the law. Hence, ML victims continue to demand Pres. Aquino to nullify his appointment of a police general to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. She must be replaced by someone who possesses credibility, integrity and deep empathy towards the martial law victims,” Enriquez ended. ###
President Benigno Aquino III made an egregious mistake two weeks ago when he appointed a recently retired police general, Lina Castillo Sarmiento, to chair the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. He has since defended the appointment, offering a cluster of reasons why Sarmiento was right for the job. Sarmiento has also asked her critics to give her a chance at proving them wrong. But the appointment remains a mistake. If the President is loath to change his mind, it is up to Sarmiento to provide the urgent, necessary remedy: She should resign.
The appointment is wrong on several levels.
First, the landmark measure providing for reparation and recognition of the martial law regime’s many human rights victims, Republic Act No. 10368, became law last year; it took Malacañang 12 months to form the claims board. Given the lateness of the hour, the President owed it to the victims and their families to do everything right, not to present them with yet another problem.
Second, placing a career official from the Philippine National Police (formerly the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police) at the head of the claims board sends the wrong signals, to both victim and victimizer. The PC/INP was notorious for human rights abuses. Even if Sarmiento can claim, as she has already claimed, that she has never been accused of any human rights violation throughout her career, the simple fact is she achieved career success in an institution with a record of human rights violations.
Third, and most important: RA 10368 lists four specific qualifications that members of the claims board should possess, and Sarmiento fails the most crucial one. Section 8 reads: “There is hereby created an independent and quasi-judicial body to be known as the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board … It shall be composed of nine (9) members, who shall possess the following qualifications …. (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.”
That second phrase says it all: Sarmiento, who joined the police force in 1980, at the height (or the depths) of military rule, cannot claim “involvement in efforts against human rights violations” committed at that time. She may have risen to the rank of director, the equivalent of major general, and headed the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office late in her career, but there is no showing that, during the Marcos years, when she was still new in the force, she was fighting back against human rights violations.
We wish to be clear: We are not suggesting that Sarmiento was a violator, only that there is no evidence that she was involved in “efforts against” human rights violations then.
If there were evidence, the President would surely have adverted to it. But in defending Sarmiento’s appointment, he offered only a curious cocktail of reasons: she had the “necessary physical ability to be able to complete the job in two years,” the maturity “to fend off those who would want to sabotage what this law intends to do,” the experience of handling human rights issues and the support of officials of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights. “So, she has the skill, she has the physical energy, she has the drive, she has the right direction to be able to accomplish the job in two years or less,” he said. Maybe, but she still does not meet the requirement clearly spelled out in Section 8 (b).
Other members of the board have a better claim to the chairmanship under the President’s criteria; he could have named former Constitutional Commissioner Jose Luis Martin Gascon, for instance, and there would have been no controversy. This suggests that perhaps the real reason the President named Sarmiento lies in that notion of sabotage: that she could “fend off those who would want to sabotage what this law intends to do.”
But who is the President referring to? There were fears heard during the long struggle to pass the law that victims associated with or sympathetic to the National Democratic Front would use the reparation money to suspicious ends. This seems to us unlikely; it also raises the question of presidential limits: Why does the President have a say in how the money will be used? But all these complications obscure the new fact: The controversy over Sarmiento’s appointment amounts to a kind of sabotage, too.
If Sarmiento has the victims’ interest at heart, she should do the honorable thing and resign.
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 — (UPDATE – 3:35 p.m.) Victims of human rights abuses committed by the Marcos dictatorship marked the 28th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising by asking the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment of retired police general Lina Sarmiento to head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.
Among the petitioners were former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Neri Colmenares, the incumbent representative of the party-list group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chair Carlo Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail, all of them among the close to 10,000 human rights abuse victims awaiting recognition under Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
Many quarters have protested the appointment of Sarmiento, calling it a travesty of the law’s intent and an insult to the dictatorship’s victims.
Among those who have voiced their opposition are former Senators Rene Saguisag and Joker Arroyo, both prominent human rights lawyers who defended the victims of the dictatorship.
In a statement, the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto said RA 10368 mandates that members of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board possess the following qualifications:
- must be of known probity, competence and integrity
- 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
- must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy
“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations (to) go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose. We shall exhaust any legal remedy available so that justice may be served,” Ocampo said in the statement.
The petition for certiorari he and the others filed says: “It is more than an issue of trust between the Human Rights Claims Board and the human rights victims. It is greater than ensuring confidence in the system supposedly envisioned to bring about justice. It is beyond the integrity of the process of arriving at the compensation to be awarded and the standards to be used in determining compensability and linking it to the rightful beneficiaries. The sum total of these values, though important, does not adequately address the issue against appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board.”
“The human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities,” it added. “Compensation is a component of justice. Rewriting the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture.”
“By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” the petition said.
The petitioners are represented by lawyers Edre Olalia, Julian Oliva, Ephraim Cortez and Minerva Lopez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Despite the criticism of Sarmiento’s appointment, President Benigno Aquino III defended his choice, citing the retired general’s age and experience.
He also said Sarmiento would be able to “fend off those who want to sabotage” the law.
But Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights organization Karapatan, described Aquino’s defense of Sarmiento as “lame … as lame as his understanding of the very essence of the law that he is supposed to implement.”
“By appointing Sarmiento, Aquino appears as the primary saboteur of the intent of the law to provide justice and reparations to Martial Law victims,” she said.
SELDA files certiorari at SC, demands nullification of Gen. Sarmiento’s appointment to Human Rights Victims Claims Board
25 February 2014
Continuing protest vs PNoy-created HR Victims Claims Board
SELDA files certiorari at SC, demands nullification of Gen. Sarmiento’s appointment to Human Rights Victims Claims Board
On the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I, Martial Law victims led by former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo filed a petition today asking the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment of PNP Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, the formation of which Pres. BS Aquino announced on February 13, 2014.
Petitioners include martial law victims namely Former Bayan Muna Rep. Saturnino Ocampo, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, Dr. Maria Carolina P. Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail. All of them belong to the almost 10,000 Martial Law victims awaiting recognition as stated in Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 signed into law by Pres. BS Aquino.
According to RA 10368, members of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board should possess the following qualifications: 1) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; 2) 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; 3) must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.
“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose. We shall exhaust any legal remedy available so that justice may be served,” Ocampo said.
The petition for certiorari concluded that “It is more than an issue of trust between the Human Rights Claims Board and the human rights victims. It is greater than ensuring confidence in the system supposedly envisioned to bring about justice. It is beyond the integrity of the process of arriving at the compensation to be awarded and the standards to be used in determining compensability and linking it to the rightful beneficiaries. The sum total of these values, though important, does not adequately address the issue against appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board.
The petition said, “The human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities. Compensation is a component of justice. Re-writing the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture. By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity.”
The counsels of the petitioners are from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) namely Attys. Edre Olalia, Julian Oliva, Ephraim Cortez and Minerva Lopez.
A number of Martial Law victims gathered infront of the Supreme Court to support the filing of the petition. ###
Reference: Jigs Clamor, SELDA national secretariat coordinator, 0917-5965859
Victims of martial law are taking up another fight against what they consider a monumental injustice.
This time they are waging a legal battle against retired police general Lina Sarmiento, President Aquino’s choice to head the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
The nine-member claims board will receive, evaluate, investigate and approve the applications for compensation of martial law victims.
Assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the victims said they will file a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Sarmiento’s qualifications to head the board on the grounds that she used to be with the Philippine National Police, an agency they accused of violating human rights.
In Iloilo City, former political detainees will join protest actions on Tuesday against Sarmiento’s appointment.
The victims said that under Republic Act No. 10368, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, members of the board should 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.”
They must also be of known probity, competence and integrity, and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.
NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia on Monday said the victims were “not questioning the discretion of the President (in choosing the head and members of the claims board). (B)ut we’re questioning (why) the President did not follow the explicit requirements on who should head the board.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the filing of a petition against Sarmiento did not have to delay the process of compensating the martial law victims.
Zarate said the claims board was a collegial body and its other members could continue with the task of processing the applications for compensation and determining their amount should Sarmiento’s leadership be restrained.
Among the petitioners in the Supreme Court case to be filed against Sarmiento are members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), whose members were jailed and abused during the Marcos dictatorship.
In a statement, Selda said the issue of Sarmiento’s appointment went beyond her qualifications. “It is a travesty of justice… a conscious effort to discredit and dishonor martial law victims,” Selda said.
Olalia, in a separate statement, said Malacañang was being “incorrigible, insensitive and hopelessly stubborn” in insisting on Sarmiento. He said there was no reason the head of the claims board should come from “the most vicious perpetrators of human rights atrocities from the time of the dictatorship…to the present.”
In Iloilo, Selda members criticized Aquino’s choice of Sarmiento, saying that “she belonged to an institution which was among those primarily responsible for human rights violations.”
“Surely there are many others who are qualified and credible,” said Fortunato Pelaez, Selda’s vice president for the Visayas, who was arrested in 1974 as a member of the militant group Kabataang Makabayan. He was detained for 15 months at Camp Crame in Quezon City and at Camp Delgado in Iloilo City, where he suffered torture, including the electrocution of his genitals.
Former political detainee Azucena Porras-Pestaño described Sarmiento’s appointment as an “immoral act” and “insulting” to the human rights victims amid the commemoration of the 1986 Edsa People Power I uprising. Pestaño was a teacher at the then Iloilo City College when she was arrested as a member of the Makabayang Samahan ng mga Propesyonal. She was detained for nine months.
Meanwhile, former senator and human rights lawyer Joker Arroyo who had earlier written an open letter to President Aquino scoring his choice of Sarmiento, on Monday pressed Malacañang to account for the P10-billion in compensation for the martial law victims.
“It would reassure everyone if Malacañang could confirm that the monies allocated to fund the monetary claims of the human rights victims…are still intact,” Arroyo said.—With a report from TJ Burgonio
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