Saying the victims of martial law abuses have waited long enough, human rights groups are urging Malacañang to form immediately the panel that would process their claims for compensation.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Sunday there was no reason for the administration to delay the appointments to the nine-member Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
Colmenares, one of the authors of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, said the government did not have to wait for any implementing rules or regulations to be formulated before naming the board members.
The board will draft the implementing rules for the compensation process, which is why its completion is crucial for the law to take full effect, Colmenares explained.
President Aquino signed the compensation measure into law on Feb. 25, the 27th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that led to the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The law was intended to recognize the struggles of the people who fought the dictatorship and provide them remunerations for their sufferings. The money would come from a P10-billion fund out of the ill-gotten wealth recovered from Marcos.
“Until the board has been completed, the application period [for the victims’ compensation] could not begin,” Colmenares said in a phone interview.
He noted that every year, many victims of abuses during the Marcos dictatorship had been dying. Further delaying the process would deny them the chance to receive the compensation themselves, although their heirs could apply on their behalf.
Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at sa Aresto (Selda), which earlier lamented the non-implementation of the measure, said that in the two and a half months after the measure was signed, some of the victims had died due to illnesses without seeing the law take effect.
“Martial law victims cannot afford to be disenfranchised, much more neglected again. The law was a victory for the victims. We cannot allow our efforts to go down the drain,” Selda national coordinator Roneo Clamor said in a statement.
Selda earlier also submitted nominees to the board. Its nominees included martial law victims who were involved in the filing of the class suit—around 9,000—gainst the Marcoses and in pursuing the enactment of the law to compensate the victims, as well as members of human rights organizations.
Selda is one of the organizations that may submit nominations to the President.
“I don’t know why after we’ve all fought for it, the appointment of the board has not yet been done. Selda is correct to press that matter,” Colmenares said.
He also conceded that the Aquino administration must name to the board people with sufficient knowledge and background on human rights issues and should not make any appointments for political accommodation.
The law itself states the requirements for the board members: persons of known probity, competence and integrity; must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against abuses during the Marcos regime; and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.
At least three board members must be lawyers who have been practicing for at least 10 years.
Once all the appointments are complete, the board would have 30 days to organize itself. Within 15 days from the date of its organization, it must promulgate the rules and regulations for the implementation of the law.
The rules would take effect 15 days after its publication in two national newspapers of general circulation. The martial law victims have six months from the effectivity of the rules to file applications for reparation.
The claims board has two years to complete its work of determining the amount of compensation for each victim.
Nov7:CLASS MEMBERS, ORIGINAL PLAINTIFFS IN CASE VS MARCOS TO COUNSEL SWIFT: CONSULT US ON THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
NEWS RELEASE – 7 November 2010
The daughter of one of the original named plaintiffs in the historic class suit versus former President Ferdinand Marcos and class members among the 9,539 plaintiffs in the said class suit today raised questions on the proposed settlement agreement negotiated by counsel Robert Swift on the Marcos ill-gotten wealth which are in the name of Jose Y. Campos or the corporations owned or controlled by Campos.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, whose parents are lead plaintiffs in the class suit and is the current chairperson of the Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) as well as the human rights alliance KARAPATAN, said class members were able to know of the said settlement agreement only during the last week of September this year upon receiving the class notices.
SELDA, an organization of former political prisoners since Martial Law and established in 1984, led the Marcos victims in filing the class action suit against former Pres. Marcos for crimes against humanity in April 1986, two months after the EDSA People Power I. 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.
“As in the previous agreements which our class counsel tried to enter into, we have requested for Atty. Swift to consult the named plaintiffs and class members on this recent settlement agreement, yet he refuses to do so. In the interest of transparency and in accordance with his duty, he should duly consult the class members on the contents and issues of the settlement,” Hilao-Enriquez said. She is among the four Hilao siblings who were arrested, tortured and detained during Martial Law, while one of them, Liliosa, was raped and murdered.
“While we welcome his efforts to supposedly collect money for the compensation of Marcos’ victims during martial law, we would like to remind Atty. Swift to always consult the victims every step of the way of such agreements,” Hilao-Enriquez said. “In order for class members to make informed and intelligent decisions, they must not be kept in the dark about the details of such negotiations so that it is not only left to the counsel to make unilateral decisions as such would have ramifications to a large number of class members,” Hilao-Enriquez added.
In the class notice sent to and received by some class members, it was stated that “Not all Class Members are eligible to receive payment. The Hawaii Federal Court required Class Members in both 1993 and 1999 to submit Claim Forms. Only those Class Members who submitted complete Claim Forms in each of those years will be eligible to receive payment. It is too late to submit or supplement a Claim Form.” Such decisions must be explained to the class members especially on the question of who were delisted and the reasons for such.”
“We would also like to know how the alleged true value of the real estate properties of the Camposes was determined in this new agreement and was valued at US$78 million. With this, is it not in the interest of the class members to proceed with the litigation instead of the $10 million settlement? It is important to know if class members have thoroughly studied the agreement, with all our questions answered and if we are amenable to the said settlement. This is not just about money, it is one of the ways of realizing justice as victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship,” Hilao-Enriquez pursued.
SELDA reiterated its call for Atty. Swift to conduct a consultation with the plaintiffs and class members and answer the questions posed before him. ###
Marcos victims urge President-elect Noynoy to prioritize compensation of Martial Law victims in his order of business.
Today, the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya, the organization of former political prisoners, many of whom were tortured, urged President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to prioritize the enactment of the Compensation Bill for Victims of Martial Law, upon his assumption as the 15th President of the Republic.
“It has been 18 years since we won our case in the US Federal Court, but until now, not one of the decisions of the Court has been realized. President Noynoy knows very well the issue at hand as his family, like the rest of the hundreds of thousands of us, was also victimized by Marcos and his cohorts. I am certain that they are also seeking justice for the illegal detention, torture and assassination of their father, former Senator Ninoy Aquino, ” stated Romeo Luneta of SELDA.
Romeo Luneta and his 8 siblings were tortured and imprisoned during martial law. His sister Maxima, who was pregnant then, lost her child due to heavy torture. Her sister in law, a seamstress, together with her 3-year-old daughter (Mr. Luneta’s niece) were abducted and went missing since 1976; both were never found until this day.
In April of 1986, two months after the EDSA People Power I, SELDA filed a class-action suit against Ferdinand 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 $ 2 B for damages. In 1997, the Swiss Supreme Court ordered the transfer of the US$540 million Marcos ill-gotten Swiss deposits to an escrow account of the Philippine National Bank, in favor of the Philippine Government.
“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 escrow account. And to do this, an enabling law is necessary, but until now, no law has been passed by Congress even as the ill-gotten wealth, which the victims helped recover, has been supposedly funneled to the National Treasury for General Appropriations. The indemnification law is long overdue; the victims are dying and the Marcoses are once more occupying powerful positions again. Thus, it is high time for a Philippine President, and we urge President Noynoy Aquino, to do an affirmative action in favor of the victims,” added SELDA leader, Ka Trining Herrera.
“The indemnification of victims of human rights violations is part of rendering justice, justice not only for us direct victims but for the Filipino people terrorized by Marcos’ Martial Law. The absence of an indemnification law, and most especially, NO prosecution of the perpetrators, has made the violators and the succeeding regimes much bolder in violating the rights of the people, just like the outgoing regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Not passing the law continuously deny justice to the victims. VIOLATIONS AND IMPUNITY MUST END, JUSTICE TO THE VICTIMS NOW!,” concluded Ka Trining. ###
The Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) challenges Bongbong Marcos and his family, especially its Matriarch, Imelda Marcos, to implement the April 5,2010 decision of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals with regard to the Marcos’ 4,000-acres real estate property in Texas.
“We have no hope that the current administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will help the victims get their compensation because for the last 9 years, all it did was to prevent us victims from getting what is rightfully ours. With the recent decision of a US Court, we dare the Marcoses, who want to have a comeback in Philippine politics, to willingly execute the judgment, that is, if they truly want to serve the Filipino people. Show to us that you truly are against corruption by posing no objection to this recent court ruling,” stated Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA Secretary General.
The 4,000-acres real estate property is just one of the other properties and monies of the Marcoses which were identified by the victims’ lawyers to be the source of the indemnification of the victims amounting to US$2B, as of the 1992 US Federal Court of Hawaii decision in the Hilao et al vs Estate of Ferdinand Marcos class action suit. The other sources are the Swiss account of the Marcoses amounting to US$680 million, already transferred to the Philippine National Treasury in 2004; The Arelma account amounting to US$35 million, which the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is persistently claiming in the name of the government together with the account in Singapore–earlier awarded by the Swiss government for indemnification, and which is part of the $680 million Swiss account.
“The Singapore Court decision is not only a victory for the victims, it is also a victory for the Filipino people. It is high time that the victims be compensated, this compensation is not just about money, it is part of getting justice. For the past 24 years, our judicial system has failed to put behind bars perpetrators of human rights violations during the time of Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Erap and now, of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, that is why impunity exists and persists in our society to this day,” added Hilao-Enriquez.
During Martial Law at least 120,000 Filipinos were put behind bars by the Marcos dictatorship. This led 9,939 of the victims and their families to file a class action suit for crimes against humanity against the Marcoses at the US Federal Court System in 1986, when Marcos fled to the US. The victims eventually won the suit in 1992 but not a single cent was received by ANY OF THE VICTIMS UP TO NOW. The governments that replaced Marcos did not do anything to give justice to the victims of martial law; in fact, the GMA government was the beneficiary of the victims’ move to file a suit against the Marcos family. Were it not for the suit filed by the victims, the Swiss Supreme Court would not have ruled and ordered the transfer of the $680 million ill-gotten Swiss deposits to the Philippine government in 1997. The money was eventually transferred to the Philippine National Treasury in 2004 and according to the Senate investigations, part of the amount went to the fertilizer fund scam authored by Jocjoc Bolante for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“SELDA strongly believes that Bong-bong’s desire to win is definitely not to help the Filipino people but for his and his family’s preservation and ensuring at the very least that a compensation Bill for martial law victims will not be passed by Congress. To prove us wrong, Bog-bong has to make a giant leap by, in the name of his family, making a public apology for the crimes committed under his father’s reign and the long overdue execution of the decision of the District Court of Honolulu to indemnify the martial law victims for damages. STOP MARCOS, JUSTICE NOW!!!” ###