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.
“The Aquino government chose to commemorate the 28th year of People Power 1 and the fall of the Marcos dictatorship by consigning a general who was part of the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) to head Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. “The appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento is a subtle way to rewriting history. It obliterates the distinction between perpetrators and victims of human rights violations during martial law,”Palabay added.
Karapatan scored Sarmiento and other Aquino apologists who try to focus on the monetary compensation for the victims of martial law. The task of the Claims Board is not simply “to receive, assess, evaluate, investigate and process applications for compensation of victims of human rights violations” as Sarmiento put it.
“The heart of the matter is justice,” Palabay said. “The Claims board is a mechanism designed by a law that aims, first and foremost, to render justice to martial law victims.”
The law, in fact, specifically states its intent to “recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.”
“Thus, the membership of the Claims Board should reflect the spirit of justice,” said Palabay. “Viewed from different angles, the appointment of Sarmiento is unjustifiable. At best it is ludicrous; at worst, it shows how perverted this government views history.”]
Republic Act 10368 states that members of the Claims Board must be of known probity, competence and integrity; must have a deep and thorough understanding of knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion, and advocacy.
Karapatan joins the demand to recall the appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento and supports the formation of a People’s Claims Board. The People’s Claims Board is composed of known anti-dictatorship activists and human rights advocates, mostly victims of martial law themselves: Makabayan President Satur Ocampo, SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan, former Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza, UP Professor Judy Taguiwalo, Dr. Edelina de la Paz, Atty. Kit Enriquez, and Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr. ###
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
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
David Dizon | ABS-CBNnews.com
Coming soon: Martial Law Memorial a la Holocaust
MANILA – Victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos will get an estimated P500,000 each with the passage of the Marcos Compensation Bill.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a member of the bicameral conference committee, said the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2012 is the result of years of work to properly indemnify victims of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship.
“It is beyond compensation but reparation and recognition for the human rights victims during martial law. It is not a big sum of money now pero malaking tulong pa rin sa mga matatanda nang victims,” he told radio dzMM.
Under the law, those qualified to receive compensation are victims of human rights violations committed from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. Compensation will come from funds amounting to P10 billion transferred to the Bureau of Treasury through the order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997.
The new law states a Human Rights Claims Board will be created to determine people qualified to get compensation.
Colmenares said the board will create the internal rules and regulations that will detail the process of recognition, compensation and reparation.
He said groups such as SELDA and Task Force Detainees can nominate human rights advocates “with deep understanding of the human rights situation during martial law” to join the board.
Representatives from the National Historical Institute, the Commission on Human Rights, and the University of the Philippines Main Library could also join the board, he said.
“It is a combination of agencies with historical and human rights mandates,” he said.
2 years to distribute compensation
Colmenares said there will be 2 groups of claimants for compensation. The first group is composed of 9,539 victims in the Hawaii class action suit against the Marcoses.
The new law states that the Hawaii complainants are presumed victims of martial law abuses and would no longer have to prove their claims for compensation.
The second group, Colmenares said, will include individuals not included in the Hawaii class action suit.
He said that once the board is set up, there will be an information campaign to allow possible claimants to apply within the 6-month period.
Claimants will also be screened by the board. A point system will be followed in determining the amount that each victim or their kin will receive, with those tortured or killed getting a higher compensation than those harassed or economically disadvantaged during martial law.
Colmenares said the board will then have 2 years to finish the process of compensation.
“Tinaningan na. Dapat in 2 years, they must get it in 2 years. We can actually give compensation to the Hawaii claimants in the first year. It is a maximum of 2 years,” he said.
Martial Law Memorial
The lawmaker said the law also establishes a Martial Law Memorial where the names of all victims of human rights violations will be enshrined.
“It was in the Senate version. In fact, ang narinig ko it will be equal to the Holocaust Musem. It will contain memorabilia, stories at kung ano pa mang bagay that will give us an idea on what happened during Martial Law. And, of course, the role of the victims, yung mga pangalan nila ilalagay duon sa memorial na yan,” he said.
Colmenares said he has already asked Education Secretary Armin Luistro about including the teaching of martial law in the school curriculum. He noted that in some textbooks, discussion about martial law is reduced to a single page and equates the period to land reform.
The lawmaker said the memorial and proper education will help the next generation understand the lessons of martial law.
“It brings back the experience of martial law and hopefully, the lessons will be inculcated
They need the real picture of what happened during martial law,” he said.
He also said he is disappointed that not one member of the Marcos family went to jail despite the crimes committed during martial law.
“Nagiging hungkag ang call na ‘Never again to martial law’ kasi parang walang lesson learned, walang accountability,” he said.
He noted that one good thing that came out after the 1986 EDSA Revolution is that the entire world recognizes Ferdinand Marcos as a dictator.
“Kami naman sa Bayan Muna, we will really work hard na hindi maulit ang apelyidong yan (Marcos) sa panguluhan,” he said.
Bongbong hands off
Meantime, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said his family already has nothing to do with granting reparations for victims of human rights human rights violations during the regime of his father.
A day after the Senate ratified a measure giving compensation to martial law victims, Marcos said the issue is only between human rights claimants and the government, which now possesses the money confiscated from his family.
“The judgments have been made against us and our position has been very clear. The government has confiscated the assets, so it’s up to the government to now dispose of them as they see fit,” he said.
Marcos added that from the very start, he was never involved in discussions on the bill.
“I just recused myself from the discussions because I cannot be seen ever to be objective about the subject,” he said.
“Malicious, irresponsible and anti-people”
Amid the good news of the ratification of the bill to compesante martial law victims, members of the human rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) deplored the “malicious, irresponsible and anti-people” statements made by Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Andres Bautista over the weekend that the martial law victims should consider giving up their claims in the class suit filed in Hawaii, now that a bill to give compensation to human rights victims is set to be enacted into law.
“We are exasperated, disappointed and angry at such malicious and irresponsible statements made by PCGG chair Andres Bautista. Why should we give up the claims when the award is based on the judgement that the Marcos dictatorship is guilty of crimes against humanity, and therefore the Marcoses are accountable for the human rights violations committed under their reign?” said Martial Law victim and SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez.
Enriquez also said that the Hawaii court judgment is final and executory.
“The victims are happy that this has become a landmark decision for victims of human rights violations the world over. The entire Filipino nation must be proud of that and now Mr. Bautista is again squandering the chance to go after the violators! We have never heard of any public apology from the Marcoses after so many years, now Bautista is telling us to give up this meager amount to compensate the victims?” she said.
On September 22, 1992, the Hawaii Federal Court through Judge Manuel Real, issued a judgment on the class suit in favor of the Marcos victims. The said decision found Marcos guilty of gross human rights violations and the Estate of Marcos is liable to pay damages to the victims.
SELDA’s chairperson explained that the bill’s passage here in the legislative halls of the country is entirely different from the class suit that the 9,539 Martial Law victims filed in a Hawaii district court after the fall of Marcos in 1986.
“Bautista does not know what he is talking about. The Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Bill, when enacted into law, will be the government’s mechanism to give recognition and reparation to victims of Martial Law. Since the fall of the dictator in 1986, the victims waited for the administrations after Marcos to go after the conjugal dictatorship and their cohorts, and make them accountable for the HRV’s committed during martial law. But no one did. The victims were the only ones who braved the systems, the Marcos maneuvers, the machinations of American and Filipino lawyers who supposedly helped the victims. It was they who fought steadfastly until they won a landmark case in a foreign court. Now it is being robbed again from them, “ Enriquez declared.
The group also called Bautista “anti-people,” in reacton to his statement that ill-gotten wealth by the Marcoses belong to the Filipino people.
“Bautista talks as if we are not part of the Filipino people who fought the dictator. The Swiss Supreme Court was clear in its order that the victims of Martial Law who filed charges against Marcos in the Hawaiian court must be considered by the Philippine government once the latter moves the recovered funds that were in an escrow account,” she said.
Enriquez also clarified that only one-third of the original total funds transferred from Switzerland and handed over to the Philippine government were asked by the victims as they fully know that the amount was gotten from the national coffers.
In 2003, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the funds transferred from Switzerland are ill-gotten and must therefore be handed over to the Philippine Government, confirming the Swiss Federal Supreme Court’s decision concerning the illegitimate origin of the funds. The government alleged that all recovered ill-gotten money would be used for agrarian reform.
“In fact, it is we who should be asking the government where has the two-thirds of the funds gone, amid reports that funds that were supposedly funnelled to the National Treasury for General Appropriations were malversed in the fertilizer fund scam,” Enriquez added.
The group casted doubts on the motive behind the PCGG’s “bashing” of the victims, especially that the ratification of the final bicameral version of the bill is slated for today.
“First, they proposed the abolition of the PCGG. Next, Bautista is messing up with the issue. It is malicious and doubtful that this is being raised at this time. Are they trying to stop the full implementation of the bill? Or are negotiations and compromises of the Aquino government with the Marcoses under way?” asked Enriquez.
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 0917-5616800
Karen Boncocan | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee on human rights compensation bill for victims during the Marcos regime has approved the creation of a compensation board which will evaluate claims.
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares on Wednesday said that the members of the panel were now discussing the qualifications of the members of the board.
Senate Bill 3334 proposed that the compensation board scrutinized claims for compensation by martial law victims.
The panel is presently in talks to resolve contentious issues on SB 3334 and House Bill 5990, which seeks to include 9,539 human rights victims who were part of a prior complaint adjudged by the US Federal Court System in Hawaii.
The Senate version also requires evidence of human rights violations against the martial law victims.
This goes against the House position, led by the principal author of its version Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, which seeks to acknowledge the Hawaii plaintiffs as victims during the Marcos regime without requiring evidence.
As Karapatan calls on Noynoy, Congress to pass Marcos victims bill before elections
Rights group hits pro-Marcos views of Arroyo, Akbayan at the bicam of Marcos victims’ bill
Karapatan today called on Pres. Noynoy Aquino and Congress “to pass the version of the Marcos victims compensation bill that is acceptable and judicious for the victims of human rights violations during Martial Law and their relatives.“
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said Aquino and both houses of Congress should not delay the immediate passage of the acceptable version of the law, have it passed and signed into law before it gets frustrated again with the frenzy for the upcoming election period. “Since the landmark judgment in Hawaii on the class suit against Marcos, several sessions of Congress have been remiss in rendering justice and indemnification for Marcos victims through the appropriate legislative measure. Aquino should certify this as an urgent measure,” she commented.
The House of Representatives and Senate have formed a bicameral conference committee to deliberate on versions of the bill from both houses.
Palabay noted that there were “snags” encountered during the debates of the bicameral conference committee, citing the positions of Sen. Joker Arroyo and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello which the group deems as “pro-Marcos” views, as the points of debates they inject in the bicameral meetings go against the principle of the proposed law, which is to render justice and indemnification to Martial Law victims.
“Both lawmakers denigrate the persevering efforts of the victims when they disregard the judgment of the US court in the landmark class suit against the Marcos. By asserting that there should be ‘disputable presumption’ for all victims, they are providing the Marcoses with another malicious legal tactic to contest the judgment in Hawaii, which found former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos guilty of rights abuses during Martial Law. This proposal is clearly in favor of the Marcoses,” Palabay explained.
Palabay said Karapatan and the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a group of former political prisoners which led the filing of the class suit in Hawaii, insist that “conclusive presumption” should be given to the 9,539 victims who filed and won the class suit in Hawaii to give due and appropriate recognition for the ‘guilty’ judgment on Marcos.
Karapatan also said the two legislators should be reminded of the principle enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN UDHR) that recognizes that right of peoples, who are confronting tyrannical and oppressive regimes, to take up arms against these kinds of governments, such as the Marcos regime.
“By proposing to exclude as ‘victims’ those who took up arms and also suffered rights violations during Martial Law, Arroyo and Bello are promoting principles that undermine the struggles of the Filipino people during Martial Law and, in effect, are undermining the universally recognized right of peoples to oppose tyrannical regimes, in whatever form they deem necessary,” Palabay concluded.
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831 Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580
Karen Boncocan | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — A group of martial law victims went to the House of Representatives Wednesday to demand that the bicameral conference committee on the human rights compensation bill ensure that the reconciled version would be acceptable to them.
Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) urged the panel to craft a reconciled version of House Bill 5990 and Senate Bill 3334 that would “reflect the interests of majority of the victims of martial law.”
The group called on lawmakers to ensure that the government recognizes “victims who filed a class action suit against Marcos in Hawaii… as legitimate human rights violation victims.”
HB 5990, being pushed by its principal author Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, urges the government to recognize and compensate 9,539 rights victims under the Marcos regime in a prior complaint adjudged by the US Federal Court System in Hawaii.
The Senate version requires evidence that the rights of the victims were violated.
The bicameral panel is set to discuss in a meeting this Wednesday whether the Hawaii plaintiffs ought to be recognized as actual victims of human rights violation during the Marcos regime.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares slammed Akbayan Representative Walden Bello for opposing the House version of the bill, saying that the partylist lawmaker undermined the position of the lower chamber in resolving the conflicting provisions of the House and Senate measures.
“Bayan Muna believes that the latest statement of Rep. Bello that the version of the House in the Marcos compensation bill suffers from constitutional infirmities and that the House is about to abandon its version to give Hawaii victims conclusive presumption that they are indeed victims, is an attack against the victims of human rights during martial law,” he said.
“This is not about Bayan Muna and Akbayan disagreeing with each other. This is about siding with human rights victims against the Marcoses,” added Colmenares.
The two partylist groups have been known to be political rivals.
Bello was opposed to the 80-20 percent distribution of compensation between the human rights victims in Hawaii and the other complainants.
Colmenares defended the House’s position, saying that the 80-20 percent classification was “fair and reasonable because it recognizes the long suffering of the Hawaii claimants.”
Bicameral committee meeting set in 2013
Let the voices of the victims be heard in the compensation bill that will be enacted into law
The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA today reminded and strongly urged the members of the legislative body to allow the voices of the victims to be heard and formally be worded in the planned harmonized version of the law that will be crafted by members of the Senate and House of Representatives bicameral committee for the compensation of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.
SELDA, the human rights organization that spearheaded the filing of a class suit against Marcos in Hawaii in 1986, welcomed the passage of the bill on third reading in the Senate on December 17, 2012 as members of the organization have repeatedly conducted several lobby activities in the Upper House for its action. The Lower House has passed its version on March 21, 2012 yet.
“Our efforts have brought us to this juncture where the Marcos Victims’ Compensation Bill is on the threshold of being enacted into a law,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA Chairperson. “However, we still have to continue to lobby for the law to reflect the victims’ voices.”
In a position paper submitted to legislators last year, SELDA members are pushing for the following provisions to be included in the proposed law:
- Recognition of the original 9,539 victims and class suit plaintiffs, as well as 24 other individual plaintiffs (21 Filipino US-based expats who filed a case for human rights violations against Marcos in 1986; and a group of 3 Filipinos, who include Prof. Jose Ma. Sison and his mother, representing his disappeared brother, Francisco, and who filed a similar cases in Hawaii against Marcos on the same year; the cases of the 21 and the 3 were consolidated with the class suit to be called Multi District Litigation 840 or MDL 840) , all of whom filed a case against former President Marcos in the U.S. in 1986 and won after the U.S. Federal Court and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court issued their rulings on September 22, 1992 and December 10, 1997 respectively, and who have already been validated by the Hawaiian Court as legitimate human rights violations victims during the time of the dictatorship.
- Inclusion of the victims of enforced disappearance among those who should be considered for the determination of award under Section 16 of Senate Bill 3334.
- Inclusion of SELDA as one of the members of the commission/committee that will be created and tasked to implement the enacted law. SELDA pushes for inclusion in the group that will be responsible to identify the victim/claimant.
- And finally, to remove the section that requires “for a human rights violation to be compensable, the killing, torture or infliction of physical injuries must be committed against a Filipino citizen peacefully exercising civil or political rights.” This will create a difficulty among those who will decide who should be considered as victims who “peacefully” exercised their rights as against those who did not. Anybody can be summarily excluded after having been accused of getting involved in a “non-peaceful” means of exercising his/her civil or political rights.
“The coming year would be a memorable year for martial law victims if the Marcos Victims’ Compensation Bill will finally be enacted into law containing the provisions we victims want included. That is why even during the holidays, victims must continue to monitor and lobby to make sure that the law is not just enacted to prettify the Aquino government and deodorize its ugly human rights record among the public and in the community of nations,” Enriquez stated.
SELDA has been pushing for a law to indemnify victims of human rights violations as a component of justice, including victims of martial law. SELDA members have repeatedly believed and said that components of justice are recognition of victims of human rights violations, indemnification of victims, prosecution of perpetrators and their punishment, apology to victims and a promise from perpetrators of non-repetition of human rights violations. This way, impunity will be lessened, if not completely curtailed.
“We have declared that a law for the reparation of victims of the Marcos dictatorship is only a battle won in our lifelong struggle for justice. So long as implementers of Martial Law remain unpunished, we will not tire of seeking justice for their victims.” Enriquez ended. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 09209466207
Contempt case involves $354-M award to human rights victims
October 29, 2012 | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship have scored a victory in their long quest to get compensation from the Marcos estate.
A US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld on Oct. 24 a contempt judgment against Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., his mother Imelda and the estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos for violating an injunction that barred them from dissipating assets of the estate.
The judgment amounting to $353.6 million is believed to be the largest contempt award ever affirmed by an appellate court.
The judgment may be implemented against any US property owned by Imelda and Bongbong. However, the human rights victims need to ask the Philippine government for implementation of the judgment against the Marcoses’ personal property in the Philippines.
A Philippine law requires that all ill-gotten wealth recovered from the Marcoses should be spent on the government’s land reform program.
Robert Swift, lead counsel for the 10,000 Filipino human rights victims who obtained a judgment against the late dictator and his estate in 1995, said he was satisfied with the new judgment.
“The Marcoses have thumbed their noses at the United States court and Filipino human rights victims ever since the $2-billion judgment was entered in 1995,” Swift said in a statement.
The American lawyer said the Marcoses were caught trying to dissipate the estate’s assets to recapitalize the family’s political dynasty in the Philippines.
Bongbong began serving his six-year term as senator in 2010. Imelda is a representative of Ilocos Norte in Congress, while daughter Imee is the governor of the province. Both mother and daughter are running for reelection in midterm elections in May 2013.
Swift said the new judgment was against Imelda and her son personally for their misconduct.
“It broadens the possibilities for collection of money to the human rights victims. The victims can be assured they we will vigorously and aggressively seek to collect this sum,” the lawyer said.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales said Sunday night that the US court victory against the Marcoses was “payback” for the “shameless arrogance” of Bongbong and his mother, who have not apologized for the looting and the killings during the Marcos regime.
“If we can’t get their apology, at least we will force them to pay more and refresh the minds of a new generation of Filipinos on the atrocities committed by the family for close to two decades,” Rosales said in a phone interview.
“They (Bongbong and Imelda) are the face of their families and the Filipinos should continue to demand payment for the sins of their family.”
She said the $353.6 million awarded by the US court would be on top of the close to $2 billion awarded to martial law victims in 1995.
Barred in US
Rosales said she was told by lawyers that the contempt award meant that the Marcoses would not be allowed to set foot on any US territory.
“The contempt ruling means that the US courts are taking seriously the disrespect shown by the Marcoses. More than the heavy fines, this is a big embarrassment to the family who has shown no remorse for the deeds they made,” the CHR said.
Rosales said that the contempt charge was a “long shot” and that the US courts sided with the victims was a “pleasant surprise.”
“The senator’s refusal to apologize and own up to the sins of his father only shows the continuing arrogance of his family,” said Rosales, herself a victim of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
The litigation against Marcos began in 1986 shortly after the dictator and his family fled to Hawaii following the people power revolution.
After Marcos died, Imelda fought the litigation. Following a historic trial, a Hawaiian jury awarded 9,539 Filipino human rights victims almost $2 billion.
The judgment was affirmed on appeal. While the jury was deliberating, the Marcoses entered into a secret deal with the Philippine government to make the Marcos estate judgment-proof.
When Swift learned of this, the human rights victims sought a contempt award against Imelda and her son, and the Marcos estate’s legal representatives, for violating the injunction that barred them from dissipating the estate’s assets.
Imelda and Bongbong were found to have agreed to the transfer from the United States to the Philippines artworks considered part of the estate, and to split the estate with the Philippine government, retaining 25 percent tax-free as their share.
After five hearings during which documents showing the Marcoses’ efforts to dissipate the assets were introduced, the court found the Marcoses in contempt and ordered them to pay the victims until they purged their contempt.
The Hawaii Court of First Instance imposed a daily fine of $100,000 from Feb. 3, 1995, to Feb. 3, 2005, when the contempt order expired, leaving a total fine of $353,600,000.
The appellate court last week wrote that the “$100,000 per day amount was necessary and appropriate because the Marcoses’ contumacious conduct” caused direct harm to the victims, by preventing them from collecting on their $2-billion judgment. With a report from Gil Cabacungan
SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Hustisya) and Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) join the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in remembering the 1000th day since the killing of 58 of their kin, and one who remains missing to this day.
Massacres have been a common fare since the dark days of Martial Law. Who will ever forget the Jabidah massacre that killed close to 60 Moro recruits used by Marcos for the “Operation Merdeka,” the alleged annexation of Sabah to the Philippines in 1968.
Then there was the Escalante massacre in September 20, 1985, where some 5,000 sugar-workers, peasants, fisherfolk, students, church people and professionals staged a rally at the town center in Escalante, after which members of the Regional Special Action Force (RSAF) and the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) opened fire at the protesters resulting to the death of some 20 civilians and wounding 30 others.
After Marcos, there was the Mendiola massacre in 1987, where 13 peasants were killed under Cory Aquino’s watch.
It has been 40 years since the declaration of martial law. Yet, like the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, justice is yet to be served to the victims of these massacres.
Impunity is an abominable legacy of the Marcos dictatorship and those who succeeded him, and so is injustice. Unfortunately, Noynoy Aquino, the son of Ninoy, have not ended this atrocious legacy; he has in fact continued to perpetuate it.
Just like those who have gone before them, families of victims of these massacres and other human rights violations have learned and earned a more lasting legacy – to fight repressive rulers and seek justice in whatever way they can.
We have been in this struggle for decades, we have raged and fought a dictator and those who tried to follow in his footsteps. But perpetrators have simply come and gone, unpunished. It is upon the Aquino government to end the cycle of impunity that promotes continuing human rights violations inflicted on the people. But until he does, we will continue to hold him responsible and accountable for these crimes.
We have gone to every corner of the country, if not the world, to demand justice and ask people to support our call. Let us continue these efforts in the coming days, weeks, even years. From victims, let us rise to be defenders of the people and continue to fight impunity. ###
Reference: Boni Ilagan, SELDA, Vice Chairperson, 0917-6291241 Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, 0949-1772928
Letter to the Editor
Forty years since the country was put under Martial Law and two years into office of the Aquino administration, Martial Law victims remain at a loss on what is keeping Pres. Aquino from enacting the bill to indemnify and bring justice to the victims of Martial Law.
We have lobbied to our legislators, even protested at the steps of the House of Representatives and the Senate demanding that the bill to indemnify victims of Martial Law be finally enacted into law. The Lower House passed its version of the indemnification bill, House Bill 5990, on March 21. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version, Senate Bill 2615, is still at the Committee on Justice and Human Rights level.
We would like to remind the Aquino administration that the Swiss government has already transferred the Marcos ill-gotten wealth in favor of the Philippine government because the victims had the courage to file charges against the former dictator in Hawaii. Had it not been for the efforts of the martial law victims themselves, the Marcos loot deposited in the Swiss banks would not have been recovered. The fund transfer had been done by the Swiss Government over a decade ago with stipulations that martial law victims be considered in its appropriations.
Victims are not even asking for the full amount. We only asked for one-thirds of the amount knowing fully well that the rest of the Filipino people must also benefit from the returned fund.
We even expressed fears before that the previous Arroyo administration may have dipped its hands into the fund for her election campaign, but the victims were assured that funds for indemnification are supposedly preserved in a trust fund. What is the reason then for Aquino’s foot-dragging?
On June 14 and15, both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to continue meaningful discussions to pave the way for the resumption of the peace negotiations. Indemnification of victims of the Marcos dictatorship will be one of the concerns to be discussed.
Likewise, the issue of compensation of Martial Law victims was mentioned under item number 92 of the Philippine Report to the Universal Periodic Review on May 28 at the United Nations, which included “compensation of the Martial Law victims” as one its commitments in upholding human rights.
With these declarations, we hold the Philippine Government over its promise to act on the indemnification of Martial Law Victims NOW. The waiting has been too long.
Different regimes have ignored our demands. We have expected a swifter action from the son of a former victim of the Marcos Dictatorship. Numerous pronouncements have been made, but Pres. Aquino seems to be going the way of his predecessors.
More than 10,000 victims of Martial Law are waiting for a more positive action from this government. We are not only asking Pres. Aquino to give us what is rightfully ours. We are demanding him to do his job.
Until then, we will continue to act and overcome all limitations imposed on us in our desire to achieve justice.
Reference: Angelina B. Ipong Secretary General 09499587373