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.”
Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lawmakers crafting the final bicameral version of a bill granting compensation to victims of human rights violations during martial law are debating whether or not to automatically recognize a certain group of claimants for indemnification or to open the fund to all claimants.
Despite this snag, however, they remained optimistic a final version of the measure would be ready for ratification by the Senate and House of Representatives when both houses resume sessions on Jan. 21.
The first bicameral conference committee meeting was held last week and another is scheduled for Wednesday.
The compensation bill seeks to provide tax-free remuneration to victims of human rights violations or their relatives during the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. The funds would be taken from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth that Swiss authorities have returned to the Philippines and which stands at about P10 billion.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the bicameral conference committee debated during its meeting last week on whether or not it would be fair to automatically recognize the claimants in the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses as human rights victims entitled to compensation.
The House version of the bill states that there would be a conclusive presumption that claimants in the Hawaii suit were victims of human rights violations, while the Senate version provides for a disputable presumption, meaning their claims would be subject to validation.
Bello believes the panel is moving toward adopting the position of disputable presumption, which would allow those who have doubts about the validity of the Hawaii claimants to contest their status and present proof against them.
Discussions on sharing
Another point that was the subject of much discussion was the proposed 80-20 sharing of the compensation fund in the House bill, where the bigger chunk would go to the martial law victims recognized by the Hawaii court, and 20 percent to all other claimants.
Bello said several lawmakers raised questions about this provision’s constitutionality and fairness, and the matter had yet to be resolved.
NEWS RELEASE – 7 November 2010
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA Chairperson (0917-561-6800)
“It’s about time that the victims under the Marcos dictatorship be accorded a component of justice by recognizing the sacrifice they have made in fighting for the people’s rights and freedoms. Pres. Benigno Aquino III should make good his word of ensuring that the long overdue measure in Congress seeking indemnification for the victims of Martial Law be immediately passed.”
Thus said Marie Hilao Enriquez, Chairperson of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) and daughter of one of the original named plaintiffs in the historic class suit against Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.
Enriquez said that it has been more than two decades ago since the Marcos victims, led by SELDA, filed the class action suit against Marcos for crimes against humanity. In September 1992, the US Federal District Court of Hawaii decided in favor of the 9,539 Filipino victims and ordered the Marcoses to pay the victims almost $2B for damages. In 1997, the Swiss Supreme Court ordered the transfer of the then US$540 million Marcos ill-gotten Swiss deposits to an escrow account of the Philippine National Bank, in favor of the Philippine Government, and in which the victims who filed the class suit in Hawaii be considered by the government in the release of the funds.
“SELDA fully supports the renewed drive led by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, himself a Martial Law victim, Rep. Teodoro Casino and the progressive legislators’ bloc who refiled two bills, House Bills 954 and 1693, for the immediate passage of measures for the recognition and compensation of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship. The four (4 – Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) administrations after Marcos have not rendered justice and were unable to decisively pass legislation to compensate the victims,” Enriquez said.
She said that the bill was already declared a priority legislation under the Arroyo administration, yet it was kept at bay even if the measure was already in its 3rd reading in the 14th Congress.
Enriquez also reiterated that the Hawaii class suit list of victims who remain as parties to the Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos (MDL 840) in the United States Federal Court System in Hawaii, must be recognized and given priority in the House bill for compensation. They must be considered automatically as victims of human rights violations and must be considered first in the indemnification; additional victims who did not participate in the class action suit in Hawaii may undergo a process in which a determination that they were victims of human rights violations will be conducted. #