MANILA, Philippines – A two-star general was put on a hot seat after critics questioned her qualifications as the newly appointed chairperson of a compensation board tasked to determine who were victims of Martial Law that deserve compensation.
This came after President Benigno Aquino III appointed police general Lina Castillo-Sarmiento to head the Martial Law Victims Claims Board.
Lawmakers and human rights groups expressed dismay over the President’s appointment of Sarmiento and vowed to seek intervention from the Supreme Court to reverse the Palace decision.
Senator Joker Arroyo appealed to Aquino in his open letter to the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer to re-examine the basis for the appointment of Sarmiento.
Arroyo said Sarmiento’s track record on human rights today does not qualify her to the position as she was never involved in human rights advocacy during the Martial Law years.
“The appointment of a general from the uniformed services to preside as chair over the adjudication of the claims for reparation and recognition of the human rights victims is a stinging repudiation of our 15 years of struggle for freedom and democracy, which culminated in the national incandescence at EDSA,” the elder lawmaker stated.
According to Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, the appointment of Sarmiento as claims board chair is a violation of the criteria that a member of the compensation board should have a “clear commitment on human rights protection and promotion.”
Colmenares said that under former President Gloria Arroyo, Sarmiento headed the Philippine National Police-Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP-HRAO).
“General Sarmiento openly defended former President Gloria Arroyo from charges of human rights violations and extra judicial killings, practically tolerating the human rights record of the Arroyo regime,” he stressed.
Republic Act 10368, also known as the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, requires the members of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to 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.
Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court to ask the high court to nullify Sarmiento’s appointment.
According to the petition, “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,” it added.
Senator Arroyo, Colmenares and Ocampo are among those who experienced torture and detention by the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary, where Sarmiento was a member.
“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,” Ocampo stated.
According to SELDA, there are about 10, 000 victims of human rights violations under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
RA 10368 was signed into law by President Aquino on February 2013 on the occasion of the anniversary of the historic People Power uprising that ousted the dictator president.
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
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.
SELDA forms People’s Claims Board, demands recall in BS Aquino’s appointment of PNP general to recognize ML victimsPress Statement 17 February 2014
SELDA announces the formation of the People’s Claim Board, in protest of the Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s appointment of a PNP general in the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) to implement the law.
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) has repeatedly urged the BS Aquino government to immediately form the claims board. On February 13, more than a week before the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368 turns a year old, the Aquino government through the Commission on Human Rights announced the appointment of PNP Retired General Lina Sarmiento as chairperson of the HRVCB. After a year of shutting off Martial Law victims, the Aquino government arbitrarily appoints a former police general.
BS Aquino’s appointment of Sarmiento is a clear affront to martial law victims. Furthermore, it asserts that the appointment of an ex-PC officer to head the martial law claims board is tantamount to a shameless honoring of an atrocious martial law apparatus. The defunct Philippine Constabulary is the forerunner of the current Philippine National Police that has records of the gravest human rights violations during the dark days of Marcos dictatorship.
Pres. Aquino clearly disregards the provisions of the law which enumerated the qualifications of members of the HRVCB. Gen Sarmiento is bereft of credibility, much more, her deep knowledge of martial law atrocities and empathy to its victims is put into question since she is part of the institution accused of rampant human rights abuses during that period.
Apart from being a PC officer under Marcos, Sarmiento was the former head of the PNP’s Human Rights Affairs Office during the Arroyo regime, which has the gravest post-martial law record of human rights abuses. This does nothing to merit her appointment. We express doubts that under Sarmiento’s chairpersonship of Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board will become an independent body.
In forming the People’s Claims Board, SELDA makes this as a parallel body to act both as a watchdog and a monitoring body of Aquino’s HRVCB. The People’s Claims Board priority is to ensure that real and legitimate martial law victims will not be marginalized. There is no room for backing out and toning down our call for justice. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
Members of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) together with the surviving victims of human rights violations during martial law and their relatives trooped to Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge to express their grievances and assailed the continued inaction of the Aquino administration in implementing the Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013 otherwise known as RA 10368.
President Benigno Aquino III signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 into a law in February, in time for the 27th anniversary of EDSA People Power I Uprising.
“To date, after almost seven months, the law has not been implemented because since its signing, President Noynoy Aquino has not appointed members of the Human Rights Claims Board as stipulated in the law. The Human Rights Victims Claims Board shall process, evaluate and approve application for claims of reparation and recognition. Further, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) will also be made by the board. Thus, without the Human Rights Victims Claims Board and its implementing rules and regulations, the law becomes inutile,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of SELDA.
SELDA asks why and what it is taking the President so long in implementing the law. ‘We are afraid that one reason why President Aquino is taking his own sweet time to form the Board is for him to exclude SELDA – nominees from being members of the Board. We in SELDA also hope that Palace officials have not dipped their fingers into the P10 B fund for victims’ reparation, and would not go the way of the scandalous pork barrel system.”
“We can no longer take Noynoy Aquino’s foot-dragging on the law while almost every month or week, a martial law victim dies. “Aanhin pa ang damo, kung patay na ang kabayo.” It adds insult to injury of martial law victims and their relatives when the said law is not given the immediate and appropriate attention by the Aquino government.” Enriquez concluded. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) pays its highest tribute to Atty. Romeo Candazo, youth activist, public servant, journalist, educator, human rights lawyer, and as a former political detainee during the Martial Law years, one of the founding members of SELDA.
A scholar during his college days at the University of the Philippines, Atty. Candazo was active in the struggle against the Marcos regime which cost him his freedom many times during the Martial Law years.
In 1985, he was one of the former political detainees who took the initiative of founding SELDA. The first SELDA Board was composed of Fidel Agcaoili, Julieta de Lima-Sison, Joaquin “Don Chino” Roces, Jake Almeda Lopez, Francisco Rodrigo, Jose Mari Velez, Benjamin Guingona, Danilo Vizmanos and Romeo Candazo.
As one of the major organizations that gathered the thousands of victims during Martial Law, SELDA was able to file the historic class suit against the Marcoses in 1986. The stories both of suffering and of courage of Atty. Candazo and other victims who came forward to let the world know of their experiences be known, are now the basis for the continuing struggle for recognition and reparation for Martial Law victims.
It is with deep regret that we in SELDA learned of his death without him witnessing the implementation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Atty. Candazo may have served well as one of the members of the Claims Board, the primary body to identify Martial Law victims who deserve recognition and reparation. If Pres. Aquino is not taking his own sweet time in implementing the law, Atty. Candazo should have seen the fruits of his struggle while he was still alive.
Most of the Martial Law victims are either ill or suffer old age, their health conditions worsened by the physical and emotional torture they experienced at the time of their imprisonment. Almost every month, we pay tribute to SELDA members and Martial Law victims, who were still able to attend meetings, joined lobby efforts in Congress, reached out to fellow political detainees and contemporaries, and marched the streets – all in the hope that they shall be recognized and be heeded upon by the current Aquino government. We shall not let their passing be in vain.
As we remember Atty. Candazo, Atty. Romeo Capulong, Bong Barsoles, Romeo Luneta, Maita Gomez, Rudy Lagoc, Manny Loste, Mike Biriña and all those who served the people and fought for justice, we demand the Aquino government to implement the law now, form the Claims Board now. There’s no other time but now. ###
Rights victims who won a favorable judgement in Hawaii clarifies position on the so-called recoveries from the sale of a Monet paintingPress Statement 19 August 2013
The Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), the organization of former political prisoners which initiated the filing of the historic class action suit for human rights violations against former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and family, today welcomed the efforts of recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses to collect on the judgment of the Hawaii court.
To clarify, SELDA Chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez, whose parents – Maximo and Celsa Hilao – are the lead plaintiffs in the historic suit, recalled that the Hawaii Court ruled in 1992 in favor of the victims; the ruling became final and executory in 1995; providing for a $2B exemplary and $776M compensatory damages for the Hawaii claimants. This meant that any recovery of Marcoses’ property by the Hawaii claimants’ lawyer, in this case, Atty. Robert Swift, can be undertaken to collect on the judgment imposed by the Hawaiian Court. Therefore, as long as the full judgment rendered by the Hawaii court has not been fully satisfied by the Marcoses, Atty. Robert Swift can identify Marcos’ illegal properties for the benefit of the Hawaiian claimants (meaning those who are included in the 9,539 victims validated by the Court in Hawaii.)
We welcome the news that the victims included in the Hawaii case, would benefit from the sale of a valuable painting that Imelda Marcos acquired during the martial law years. We recognize Atty. Robert Swift’s efforts to go after the Marcoses ill-gotten wealth to collect on the judgment of the Hawaii court. However, we would like to reiterate and remind Atty. Swift and other lawyers that before any settlement and distribution of monies from such takes place, the victims must be consulted; their views on such obtained as they have a right to know who this “secret buyer” is (for all the victims know, the buyer may also end up a Marcos) and what the provisions of the settlement are. Even if the Hawaii court determines the fairness of the settlement by asking the victims, the latter can only reply intelligently if they are well- informed of the agreements.
We also hope that the original 9,539 victims validated by the Court in 1994 will be included in the beneficiaries of the said recovery. We do not like a repeat of the 2011 so-called check distribution to the 7,526 victims “from the settlement agreement reached by Atty. Robert Swift and the Marcos crony Jose Yao-Campos for the 2 pieces of real estate properties in the US of Imelda Marcos.”
The 2011 check distribution disenfranchised 2, 013 victims who seemed delisted arbitrarily by the lawyers in the Hawaii suit. We demand that the original list of 9,539 and NOT ONLY the 7,526 victims will benefit from this boasted sale of the Monet painting. As the judgment has not been fully satisfied yet and the lawyer can go on recovering or making settlement agreements with the Marcoses, we condemn the disenfranchisement of those delisted from the original 9,539. Even if the original claimants have died, they are still represented by their next of kin and families as well as other relatives.
Further, Enriquez asks, “I understood that the Hawaii class suit or the MDL-840 is a consolidated case of three groups who sued Marcos in the Hawaii Court in 1986. The three groups were the SELDA group of 9,539; the group of 21 Filipino expatriates in the US led by Vic Clemente and Fluellen Ortigas and the group of three of Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the parents of the former representing his disappeared brother, Francisco Sison and Jose Piopongco, whose radio station was ordered confiscated by then Pres. Marcos. I understand that all three groups won the historic class action suit and therefore, all three must be included in any settlement agreement or recoveries to collect on judgment. That is why it is not only 9,539 victims who must benefit from the recovery of Marcos’ wealth but the three groups who won in the landmark case.”
Atty. Robert Swift and his co-counsels must be able to explain this to the victims and to the public as well. SELDA informs the public that any recovery of Atty. Swift to collect on the judgment of the Hawaii court pertains and will only benefit the claimants in the Hawaii case and not the entire list of martial law victims in the Philippines as covered by the recently-signed but unimplemented RA 10368 or Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. ###
“Empty celebration” as long as reparation for and recognition of Martial Law victims remain lip serviceNews Release 15 August 2013
SELDA on the grandiose preparation to commemorate Ninoy’s anniversary
“Empty celebration” as long as reparation for and recognition of Martial Law victims remain lip service
Rights group SELDA said the upcoming activities commemorating the assasination of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino will remain as “empty celebrations” as long as the reparation and recognition for Martial Law victims remain as lip service and unimplemented by the Noynoy Aquino administration.
“We remember the death of Ninoy as one that might have triggered the final push to oust the dictator; but years before his assassination, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who were lesser known than Ninoy, have sacrificed their lives to fight against the tyrannical rule of the dictator. Like Ninoy, they deserve to be recognized, their deeds made known to a nation grateful for its heroes. August 21 is one of those times we can remember them together with Ninoy, yet after a long, hard, even lonely struggle, the law that was supposed to do this – the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Law, finally signed by President Noynoy Aquino on February 25, 2013, has not been implemented up till now,” SELDA chairpeson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
The group described the non-formation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board as stipulated in the law, as “mockery” to the victims who painstakingly demanded reparation and recognition for decades now.
“Now that another commemoration of Ninoy’s assasination is to be observed again we can only feel insulted at how the Aquino government will throw out festivities once more. This, while the thousands of heroes of Martial Law are painfully waiting for the formation of the claims board, the first and most basic step in the implementation of the law,” Enriquez said.
The Claims Board, the primary body that will evaluate and recognize the victims of the Marcos dictatorship is yet to be formed after Pres. Aquino signed RA 10368 on the occasion of the 27th People Power Anniversary, February 25 this year.
Martial Law victims will submit another letter to Pres. Aquino on August 21, demanding for the law’s implementation. A protest action will also be held at the foot of Mendiola to be participated in by hundreds of Martial Law victims from Manila and nearby provinces.
“Malacañang has a lot of explaining to do, not only to the victims but to the general public, why there is so much delay in the formation of the claims board. Moreover, we are questioning the apparent effort to exclude SELDA, the organization which led the historic filing of the class suit against the Marcoses, for the plunder and rights violations against the people,” Enriquez pointed out.
Include all Hawaii class suit members
Meanwhile, SELDA welcomed the new settlement agreement involving an artwork “owned” by Imelda Marcos.
The group said, however, that the new agreement should include all the original 9,539 victims who were part of the class suit in Hawaii. It can be remembered that in the $10 million Swift-Campos settlement agreement, only 7,526 out of the 9,539 claimant-victims were given their share from the settlement.
“The more than 2,000 victims who were denied of compensation in the first settlement is equivalent to a blatant disenfranchisement and non-recognition. Delisting them for the second time is unforgivable,” Enriquez said.
Nevertheless, Enriquez said recognition to the victims as soon as the law is implemented, is important and valuable. “No amount of money is equivalent to the recognition that shall etch the role played by the Martial Law heroes in our nation’s history,” Enriquez concluded. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
SELDA submits nominees to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board; vows to see to it that R.A. 10368 will be implemented for the interests of the victimsPress Statement
March 14, 2013
SELDA or the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, the organization that initiated the class action suit against former dictator Marcos, sent its list of nominees to the Office of the President on March 12, 2013, for possible inclusion to the Human
Rights Victims Claims Board that will evaluate and process the claims of the human rights violations victims who will file their claim under RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
According to the law, SELDA is one of the five human rights organizations, although not limited to the five named organizations,
that “may submit nominations” for membership in the Human Rights Victims Claims Board that will evaluate and process the application for claims of the martial law victims under the law. SELDA secretary general Angie Ipong asserts, “We are very honored and proud that our nominees possess the qualifications of the members of the Claims Board spelled out in the law; thus, 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. There is also a provision that stipulates that at least three (3) of the nine (9) must be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least (10) years.”
SELDA’s nominees for the Human Rights Victims Claims Board are the following:
1. Ms. Amaryllis “Marie” Hilao-Enriquez – Marie, Chairperson of both SELDA and Karapatan, is a survivor of martial law. From her student days at the University of the Philippines up to the present, she has remained a staunch human rights defender. Marie, as a prominent leader of SELDA, led the organization of former political prisoners in the filing and proceedings of the class action suit against the former dictator Marcos in the US Federal Court in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the daughter of one of the original plaintiffs in the Hawaii class suit. She likewise led the victims and their kin in the active lobby work for the enactment into law of the compensation bill that would indemnify and recognize the victims of martial law. She is a tireless human rights worker in engaging the various mechanisms of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
2. Mr. Bonifacio P. Ilagan – Boni, a multi-awarded writer, was twice arrested (1974 and 1994), tortured, and imprisoned. Boni’s political activism is expressed, among others, through his writings. He is currently the Vice Chairperson of SELDA, one of the mandated organizations under RA 10368 to submit nominations for the Human Rights Claims Board.
3. Former Representative Liza L. Maza – As a member of the House of Representatives for nine years, Liza introduced and advocated for the legislation of a law recognizing and indemnifying victims of Martial Law. Ms. Maza, together with representatives Satur Ocampo and the late Crispin Beltran, filed the bill for victims of martial law, with due consultations with the victims, their relatives and lawyers.
4. Prof. Judy Taguiwalo – Judy teaches at the University of thePhilippines. She heads the Department of Women and Development Studies of the College of Social Work and Community Development. She was a member of the UP Board of Regents from 2009-2010. She is the recipient of an outstanding alumna award from the UP Alumni Association. She was detained twice, in 1973 and in 1984, where she gave birth inside prison. She is a board member of SELDA.
5. Dr. Edelina P. De la Paz – Dr. Delen de la Paz is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Family Medicine at the UP College of Medicine. She is also the Vice Chief of the Social Medicine Unit at the same university. Dr. Delen de la Paz has been involved in various health and human rights related institutions and non-government organizations. She is a respected alumna of the UP College of Medicine.
6. Atty. Romeo D. Candazo – a former political detainee, Atty.Ome Candazo is one of the founding members of SELDA in 1985. He is also a public servant having occupied various executive and legislative positions in the government; he served as a representative of the City of Marikina. He is a journalist, an educator and lecturer at the UP, Ateneo and Maryknoll College. But, first and foremost, Atty. Candazo is a human rights lawyer.
7. Atty. Kit S. Enriquez – Atty. Kit is the President of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-Cebu Chapter and a member of the Board of Directors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu from 2005-2011. Atty. Kit was arrested twice during martial law (1972 and 1975) and was heavily tortured by the military.
8. Atty. Dominador A. Lagare, Sr. – hails from General Santos in Mindanao and has been a practicing lawyer since 1973. He was appointed OIC Mayor of General Santos during President Cory Aquino’s time. He has also served General Santos as city councilor for four terms. Atty. Lagare has been doing pro bono work for victims of human rights violations in the General Santos and Saranggani provinces. He teaches labor laws and negotiable instruments at the Mindanao State University.
With such sterling names and achievements of our nominees, we are confident that they possess the qualifications required by law and if appointed, the personalities we are submitting for nomintations will do honor and work for the interests of the victims of martial law and see to it that this law will redound to the vicitms’ benefits,” SELDA secretary general Angie Ipong concluded. She also said that “SELDA’s nominees have been the vocal as well as silent workers behind the campaign for justice for martial law vicitms, components of which are the recognition of the struggle of the vicitims against the dictatorship and the reparation for the sufferings the victims experienced. These are finally realized under the law. We, at SELDA, vow to see to the law’s implementation. ###
Reference: Eliza Tita Lubi, SELDA board member, 434-2837
SAYING the quest for justice is not yet over, President Aquino yesterday signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 (Republic Act 10368), which would compensate human rights victims during the martial law era.
The law, which was signed during the 27th anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, sets aside P10 billion from the seized Marcos assets as reparation for victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violation committed from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986.
The law also concluded that members of the class suit that was decided by Hawaii District Court Judge Manuel Real and human rights victims as recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation are also presumed victims during the martial law regime.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Section 20 of the new law provides for a reward or point system ranging from 1 to 10 which would be used to identify the victims and determine how much compensation they would receive.
Those who died or disappeared or are still missing get 10 points; those tortured and/or raped, four to nine points; detained, two to four points; and forced into exile, kidnapped or otherwise exploited, sexually offended but not raped during military and/or police operations, one to four points.
Claims by the human rights victims or their heirs shall be made within six months after the effectivity of the implementing rules . The law provides that no special power of attorney shall be recognized unless the victim is incapacitated.
A nine-member Human Rights Victim’s Claims Board shall be created that would draft the implementing guidelines and process the applications for compensation.
Non-monetary reparation shall be provided by the education and social welfare departments, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in coordination with the Commission on Human Rights, through the preparation of teaching modules on the abuses committed and heroism shown during the martial law years.
A Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission shall be established in honor of the human rights victims.
Aquino said the People Power revolution does not belong to only one particular group, and called on Filipinos to remember its lessons and put the country’s interests ahead of their own.
He said a united and solid Filipino force is needed to stand against all obstacles in the path towards progress.
The President said the Philippines served as inspiration for other countries after the 1986 bloodless revolution. He said the country is again a new source of inspiration due to its strong fiscal standing amidst the global economic uncertainty and pessimism.
He said Filipinos should be proud of this achievement, and work on ending the economy’s boom and bust cycle.
Aquino led the flag raising ceremony at the People Power Monument that kicked off the day-long activities that marked the Edsa anniversary.
The President was joined by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Cabinet members led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., and members of the Senate and House represented by Senator Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
The President also led the awarding of the Spirit of Edsa Foundation Awards, and witnessed the presentation of a Pledge of Commitment by governors, and religious, business and youth representatives and the “Salubungan” rites that recalled the converging of the military and the people in EDSA to stand against the forces of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
President Fidel Ramos, then AFP Vice Chief of Staff, and former Senator Agapito Aquino – Aquino’s uncle – led the Salubungan.
A statue of Our Lady, credited for the peaceful revolution, was carried by Father Arnold Abelardo who was seated on top of a military tank adorned by yellow flowers. The Salubungan was followed by a shower of yellow confetti from a military chopper.
The Madrigal Singers then led the singing of “Magkaisa” and “Bayan Ko,” after which Ramos and the elder Aquino reenacted the “victory jump,” a reminder of the crowd’s celebration when told that Marcos had left the Palace.
In the afternoon in Malacañang, the President met with busloads of children from various orphanages and told them about martial law and People Power.
He said the younger generation should preserve the democracy and freedom that the country enjoys.
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) said the signing of the reparations law was a “small victory” for the martial victims’ continuing search for justice.
“They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights,” said SELDA chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez.
The group said the passage of the law was due mainly to the persistence of the martial law victims who worked with supporters against those who sought to oppose or delay the measure.
SELDA vowed to guard the 9,539 people included in the master list of martial victims against unnecessary bureaucratic processes and scams that will deprive them of just indemnification.
The human rights group Karapatan said the human rights abuses continue under the present administration.
In a statement, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said yesterday’s commemoration of the EDSA People Power is an “empty exercise meant as a window dressing for the administration’s dismal human rights records.”
The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the political comeback of the Marcoses, 27 years after EDSA 1, points to the failure of all post-EDSA governments to make them truly accountable.
Lawmakers on Monday lauded the signing of a landmark measure providing compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law era, saying the law serves as a recognition to all those who fought the dictatorship of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, an author of the measure who was himself tortured during the Marcos dictatorship, described the signing of the law as a “victory” for all Martial Law victims.
“At last, the long wait for the Martial Law victims is over. This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the State’s recognition of their suffering under Martial Law,” Colmenares said in a statement.
He added that the Marcos compensation law should also serve as a reminder to the youth to always be “vigilant” against violations of human rights in the country.
Earlier in the day, President Benigno Aquino III signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, in time with the 27th anniversity of the EDSA People Power Revolution, which toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
Under the new legislation, P10 billion in funds from the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses will be used to pay the victims.
‘Recognition of heroism’
In separate statements, Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Escudero, co-authors of the Marcos compensation law, also lauded the passage of the landmark measure.
“As one of the co-authors of this law, I personally see this law as a recognition of the heroism that was widespread during the Martial Law: a heroism that rang across hills and blazed through the streets of this country,” Guingona said.
“It is only when we remember the atrocities, the injustice, and the abuses that went on in our past that we, as a nation, can continue to fight against attempts to resurrect these evils. Our memory of Martial Law, kept alive and strong, will ensure that we will never have to suffer the same fate ever again,” he added.
Escudero, who sponsored the measure as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, likewise said that the signing of the reparation law gives “true meaning” to the celebration of the EDSA revolution.
“While it took all of 27 years for the state to finally recognize the atrocities it inflicted on Filipinos whose democratic rights were suppressed under Marcos, the compensation law seeks to give justice to victims of the dark days of oppression and hopefully give an assurance that it will not happen again,” he said.
The group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), for its part, likewise welcomed the signing of the Marcos compensation law, but warned of “attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase from 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,” the group said in a separate statement.
SELDA, which led the filing of a class suit by Martial Law victims in a Hawaii court, likewise said that it will closely monitor the implementation of the new law.
“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,” it said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an author of the measure whose brother was a victim of enforced disappearance during the Marcos regime, meanwhile said that the compensation bill “completes the trilogy of legislative human rights measures.”
In 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Anti-Torture Law. Last year, President Aquino enacted the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. —KG, GMA News
MANILA, Philippines – The only son of two of the most prominent victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime signed a landmark law yesterday, providing compensation for human rights victims of the dictatorship.
President Aquino, whose father Benigno was assassinated by state forces in 1983, signed Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
The law will award P10 billion, sourced mainly from the Marcoses’ deposits in Swiss banks, to about 10,000 victims.
RA 10368 seeks to “right the wrongs of the past,” President Aquino said.
Compensation will be based on the extent of injuries. A point system of distributing the funds will be spelled out in greater detail in the implementing rules and regulations that will be released soon.
“The law itself provides a point system. There will be of course the board that will be determining the claimants, and based on that point system they will be able to determine how much a person will be entitled to,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
The signing of the law – exactly 27 years after the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a bloodless military-backed popular uprising – is also considered an official recognition of the atrocities committed during the regime, largely by security forces.
Marcos and his relatives and cronies are accused of plundering up to $10 billion. So far, the government has recovered about $4 billion.
“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,” Aquino said.
Among the factors to be considered in determining individual compensation are period of detention, degree of torture or sexual abuse, among others.
“There is a determination of award. There is a point system and it shall range from one to 10 points,” Lacierda said.
“Victims who died or disappeared or are still missing shall be given 10 points, while those tortured and/or raped or sexually abused shall be entitled to six to nine points; victims who suffered detention shall be given three to five points; victims whose rights were violated shall be given one to two points.
“And there will be an IRR that will be drafted and perhaps put in finer detail how this computation of the point system shall be done,” Lacierda said.
The law also provides for the creation of the Human Rights Violations Victim’s Memorial Commission, whose task is to heighten the youth’s awareness – through education – of the excesses of the Marcos regime as well as the heroism of those who fought it.
Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Andres Bautista said RA 10368 “addresses not only past mistakes but endeavors to ensure that these mistakes never happen again.”
“The P10-billion fund which will be sourced from the Marcos Swiss bank accounts successfully repatriated back to the Philippines by the PCGG in 2003 is definitely being put to good use,” he said.
In a speech delivered at the People Power monument on EDSA in Quezon City, Aquino thanked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for shepherding the measure. He also lauded House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III – one of the main authors of the law – for patiently working for the approval of the bill.
“Now that the victims are being recognized for their sufferings, it is time to declare ‘never again’ to martial law. If we have tuwid na daan, we should also have tuwid na kasaysayan in order to prevent a wrong presentation of history,” Tañada said.
Tañada’s father and grandfather, Wigberto and Lorenzo Sr., were themselves victims of martial law.
Loretta Ann Rosales, an anti-Marcos activist who was tortured by his security forces and now heads the Human 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 said.
Under the law, a compensation board will accept and evaluate applications for reparations over the next six months, according to Rosales.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chair of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA, 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.
SELDA 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 Mindanao.
“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,” SELDA said in a statement. “They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights.”
For some lawmakers who fought the Marcos dictatorship, the signing of RA 10368 completed the “trilogy” of landmark human rights laws in the country.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, in separate statements, hailed President Aquino’s signing of the law but called on Malacañang to make sure the new law is strictly implemented.
The two other landmark human rights laws are the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 or RA 9745 and the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 or RA 10353, Lagman said.
Lagman’s brother, human rights and labor lawyer Hermon Lagman, disappeared on May 11, 1977. His family never found him despite incessant efforts to locate him in military camps. The Albay lawmaker said they have not decided if they would accept compensation.
Colmenares said he considered the enactment of the compensation law a personal victory, citing his experience of torture at the hands of the military as well as his four-year detention as a 17-year old student leader.
“At last the long wait for the martial law victims is over. This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the state’s recognition of their suffering under martial law,” Colmenares said.
“Many years after the Hawaii court recognized us, our own government recognized us,” he said, referring to the ruling of the US court to grant compensation to nearly 10,000 victims of human rights violations during the regime of the late strongman Marcos.
“The overall message of this recognition is that martial law must never happen again, or is a call for vigilance – the people must not let it happen again,” he added.
Colmenares also said he would have given to his mother whatever compensation he would receive had she lived long enough to see the law passed and implemented.
“She did suffer a lot during my torture and four-year imprisonment, so I would have willingly given it to her, but she died last year. I guess I would have to give my share nalang to the SELDA,” he said.
He said his mother wanted to do repairs on their house in Bacolod City. He added that it might also be ethically questionable for him to accept compensation since lawmakers are not supposed to financially benefit from legislation enacted during their term.
Unlike Colmenares, another human rights victim turned lawmaker said he would be very happy to accept compensation.
“I was a detainee in Bicutan in 1978. Yes, I will accept. It is a moral victory on my part,” Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas told The STAR. Treñas belongs to the ruling Liberal Party. Colmenares said Bayan Muna colleague and The STAR columnist Satur Ocampo had been removed from the compensation list by lawyers of the Marcoses.
“We will insist that he be included in the list of human rights victims in recognition of his sacrifices during martial law,” he said.
By compensating human rights victims, the government is officially recognizing their sacrifices, senators said yesterday.
“While it took all of 27 years for the state to finally recognize the atrocities it inflicted on Filipinos whose democratic rights were suppressed under Marcos, the compensation law seeks to give justice to victims of the dark days of oppression and hopefully give an assurance that it will not happen again,” Sen. Francis Escudero said.
“As one of the co-authors of this law, I personally see this as a recognition of the heroism that was widespread during martial law: a heroism that rang across hills and blazed through the streets of this country,” Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said.
Even the late dictator’s son and namesake described the law as “reasonable” and “imbued with compassion.”
But Sen. Bongbong Marcos said the government should also find ways to compensate other human rights victims after the 1986 revolution.
“It is only when we remember the atrocities, the injustice, and the abuses that went on in our past that we, as a nation, can continue to fight against attempts to resurrect these evils. Our memory of martial law, kept alive and strong, will ensure that we will never have to suffer the same fate ever again,” Guingona added.
Sen. Loren Legarda said the people should continue to fight for human rights without trampling on the rights of others.
“We must support ways by which we can protect and uphold our democracy,” she said.
“We must protect freedom of speech. We should ensure honesty, transparency and accountability of government officials, thus we must have freedom of information,” Legarda stressed.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, said the government should sustain the “momentum of change” so that every Filipino can realize the full benefits of democracy.
He said the benefits of EDSA would only be fully realized if economic opportunities become acccessible to the majority of Filipinos.
For Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the signing of the landmark compensation law on the anniversary of the People Power Revolution of 1986 “serves as a reminder for us Filipinos to never take for granted the freedom that we now enjoy.”
Pangilinan said Filipinos born after the revolution must be constantly reminded of the excesses of the Marcos regime.
“It is our duty to remind this generation of what transpired. We must never allow this part of our history to be trivialized nor the facts twisted by those who seek to be cleansed of their transgressions against the Filipino people. Never again, indeed,” Pangilinan said. – With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz, Alexis Romero, Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Rainier Allan Ronda
On the upcoming anniversary of the first Edsa People Power, the Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) calls on Pres. Aquino to immediately sign into law the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
Almost three weeks after having been ratified by both houses of congress, the said measure still awaits the president’s signature for its enactment into law.
According to SELDA, the victims have waited so long for this law and the pomposity and grandiose preparation that go with the President’s formal signing should not be a reason for its delay.
“We have already suffered and waited more than enough for the past 27 years. Its passage into law and the final recognition of the struggles and sacrifices of victims and survivors is substantially enough for us. We strongly urge Aquino not to delay anymore its signing, and let the law now do justice for us,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda.
Though it sees nothing wrong that the bill is said to be signed on the anniversary of the first people power, SELDA expresses dismay that the eventual signing would be used by the Aquino administration to further portray itself as a “human rights champion” and to score points for the government during this election period.
“The law is a product of the numerous efforts of the victims to seek justice, and it should not be used to deodorize the human rights record of this regime brought about by the numerous killings and transgressions that are committed by this regime,” said Hilao-Enriquez. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 0917-5616800
THE PASSAGE of the landmark Marcos human rights victims compensation bill or the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013” is a most welcome development even if reservations persist about how it will be implemented, once signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, to the satisfaction of the victims themselves.
Finally, here is official recognition that the Marcos regime was a brutal and repressive regime imposed upon the Filipino people via the declaration of martial law that was nothing less than a craftily disguised Palace coup d’ état.
The principal characters who jointly perpetrated and benefitted from the blood-soaked and kleptocratic regime such as the other half of the Conjugal Dictatorship, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, martial law administrator Juan Ponce-Enrile, and businessman and now presidential uncle, Danding Cojuangco, wish to wash their hands of their complicity or even try to rewrite history.
To a certain extent they have been able to do just that by virtue of their ill-gotten wealth, their undeserved positions in government, as well as their reinstatement in high society circles after being considered, fleetingly, as social pariahs.
But the existence of tens of thousands of victims subjected to gross violations of their human rights such as extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance, torture and prolonged, unjust detention in subhuman conditions belies any attempt to justify or prettify Marcos’ martial rule.
It is to the credit of these victims, their bona fide organization, SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) that filed the original class action suit against the Marcos estate in 1986 in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii and won for its 9,539 members an award of $2 Billion in 1995, and the human rights defenders and political activists who refuse to allow the lessons of martial law to be forgotten, that the Marcos compensation bill has come this far.
It has been 41 years and many of the victims are either dead or old and ill, and their families destitute. They are more than deserving of this token reparation and that their names be inscribed in a “Roll of Victims” to be part of the “Memorial/Museum/Library” that will be set up to honor them.
Unfortunately the bill says very little about what else aside from the martial law atrocities and the victims’ heroism that will be memorialized.
Pres. Aquino is reported to have remarked in connection with the compensation bill that the martial law era was an “aberrant period,” “a nightmare that happened to the Filipino nation” and that it should be written down with formality “so that we can be sure that this would not happen again in the future.”
For their part educators and historians have decried how the martial law era is treated perfunctorily if not sketchily in the textbooks used in our public schools so that its whys and wherefores are lost on the younger generation.
While Marcos’s ambition, cunning, puppetry and greed were among the main ingredients in the setting up of the dictatorship, this did not take place in a vacuum. Rather, Marcos imposed martial rule in the midst of an acute crisis in a chronically crisis-ridden social system weighed down by poverty, maldevelopment, social injustice and neocolonial domination.
It was his scheme to tamp down the crisis by eliminating all opposition and thus monopolize the spoils of elite rule and perpetuate himself in power with the blessings of the US. How many know about the complex reasons behind the political imprimatur and economic backing provided by the United States government to Marcos’s one-man rule, only to drop the favored dictator like a hot potato and embrace his successor, Mrs. Corazon Aquino, some 14 years later.
Marcos was overthrown but the reactionary system still exploits and oppresses the Filipino people. State fascism and concomitant human rights violations are not mere aberrations but are well entrenched in this system so that impunity for human rights violations still reigns.
Glossy, coffee table books on the EDSA “people power” uprising give more than ample coverage of the roles of Senator Ninoy Aquino’s widow “Cory,” Cardinal Sin, General Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce-Enrile and other personalities in toppling the dictatorship but they provide only snapshots, at biased angles, and not a continuing account of the people’s history of resistance as it unfolded from the moment Marcos declared martial law in 1972.
The defiant call “Never again (to martial law)!” can easily be rendered meaningless when the complete context — socioeconomic and political — as well as the specific historical facts and circumstances that gave rise to and propped up Marcos’ authoritarian rule are not rigorously documented and objectively analyzed.
Indeed, the untold stories of how the Filipino people, especially the masses of peasants, workers and other urban poor, struggled against the dictatorship must be collected and retold in such a way that the martial law era will be remembered as one of resistance and not submission or even “victimization.”
There should not be any discrimination against those who took the path of armed revolutionary struggle against the fascist dictatorship since this form of struggle contributed significantly to its weakening and eventual overthrow not to mention that most of these revolutionaries paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the process.
In the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) inked between the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), Articles 4 and 5 provide for indemnification to victims of human rights violations, citing in particular the need to compensate victims under the Marcos regime. In the many sessions of the GRP-NDFP peace talks (both formal and informal) the NDFP peace panel had consistently and persistently raised the issue with their GRP counterpart.
The GRP appeared to have acknowledged the justness of this demand by eventually signing CARHRIHL that provides for it. But the actual indemnification did not materialize evidently due to the Arroyo regime’s machinations. Now it remains to be seen, assuming Pres. Aquino will sign the bill into law, whether the martial law human rights victims will finally get what is due them.
Almost four decades after he was arrested and tortured and his sister disappeared into a maze of Philippine police cells and military houses, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan is finally seeing his suffering officially recognized.
A writer for an underground communist newspaper, Ilagan and thousands like him were rounded up by security forces of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos after he placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972. Detentions, beatings, harassment and killings of the regime’s opponents continued until Marcos was toppled in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Even though democracy was restored, it would take another 27 years for Congress to vote on a bill awarding compensation and recognition to martial law victims.
On Monday, the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the bill after the bicameral committee earlier in the day signed the final version of the bill following some last-minute polishing.
President Aquino is expected to sign the bill into law shortly, possibly before the anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos.
“More than the monetary compensation, the bill represents the only formal, written document that martial law violated the human rights of Filipinos and that there were courageous people who fought the dictatorship,” said a statement from Selda, an organization of former political prisoners.
Ilagan’s story is more of a rule than exception among leftist activists of his generation.
“The torture started in the house. We were beaten up, punched and kicked,” he said, recalling a police raid on his residence in April 1974 and the beginning of his two-year detention ordeal.
He said he vomited blood after being kicked in the thighs. The soles of his foot had been burned by an iron, he added.
“The one episode in my torture that I cannot forget was when they ordered me to remove my pants and underwear and they inserted a piece of stick into my penis. ‘Oh my God,’ I said, this is one torture I could not bear,”’ the 61-year-old said in an interview.
He said that interrogators wanted him to decode documents and identify people in pictures that were seized from suspected communists.
“Compared to others, mine was not the worst torture,” he said. “The others were electrocuted and injected with truth serum. … But the threats continued.”
Ilagan’s sister, Rizalina, disappeared in 1976 along with nine other activists, many of them students involved in anti-Marcos publications, he said.
One of the women arrested by the same government unit that he suspected was involved in his sister’s abduction had escaped to recount her rape and torture. Ilagan said he has no doubt that his sister went through the same abuses.
His parents died still hoping his sister would turn up alive, but the family has found no closure, Ilagan said.
Despite cases filed by former political prisoners, “there have been no convictions of perpetrators,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda, said Monday.
“Governments after Marcos did not move or did not do anything to go after Marcos seriously, so we filed a case in Hawaii,” Enriquez said.
In 1992, the victims won a class action suit against the Marcos estate in Hawaii.
Under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, the 9,539 victims in the Hawaii class action suit against the Marcoses will be awarded compensation using $246 million, roughly P10 billion, that the government recovered from Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth deposited in Swiss bank accounts.
The bill states that these plaintiffs would be presumed victims of martial law abuses, which means they would no longer have to prove their claims for compensation.
Also to be conclusively recognized as Marcos victims are those in the list of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani foundation.
The amount each will receive will depend on the abuse suffered.
Loretta Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said her agency was looking at around 6,000 cases of abuses during the Marcos years. If there are two victims for each case, there could be 12,000 more claimants eligible for compensation, she said.
“Finally, over two decades after the fall of the dictatorship, we will have a law that puts the responsibility of human rights abuses square on the shoulder of Marcos and provides justice for all those who suffered under his reign,” said Rep. Walden Bello, a member of a congressional committee that drafted and approved the bill.
“This bill should make us realize that never again should we allow (the atrocities) of the Marcos regime to happen in this country,” Sen. Francis Escudero said after the Senate ratified the 16-page bicameral report.
“After 25 years, I really hope that the Marcos compensation bill would be signed in time for the Edsa One celebration,” the senator said.
Escudero noted that many of the victims of martial rule were more interested in being recognized and listed in the Roll of Victims than in receiving reparation, citing Sen. Joker Arroyo.
There would be cases when the Human Rights Claim Board itself would recognize unilaterally a martial law victim and put his name in the roll even if he does not apply for recognition, he added. With reports from Associated Press, Leila B. Salaverria and Cathy C. Yamsuan