Statement of SELDA on the passage of the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013Press Release February 25, 2013
Twenty seven long years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, a law confirming the atrocities and human rights violations under martial law is finally signed into law. The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA, which led the filing of the historic class suit by the martial law victims against Ferdinand E. Marcos in a Hawaii court, welcomes the passage of the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
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. They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights.
The struggle was protracted. The process was agonizing and tedious. Scores of members of the Philippine Congress, in cahoots with the Marcoses and the military who vehemently opposed the passage of the law, tried to block its passing. In some instances, they deliberately delayed the process or watered down the crafted bill.
Now, with a regime posturing as a “champion of human rights” and trying to score credits for its passage, the law was passed but mainly due to the persistent efforts of the martial law victims themselves. Tirelessly working hand-in-hand with progressive party-lists and likeminded legislators, the bill was finalized and ratified. Generally, the law is acceptable to the victims and survivors of martial law.
We take this opportunity to commend and express our gratitude to Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño, who stood with us since the filing of the bill, pursuing the most pro-victim provisions, and consistently pushing, on behalf of the victims, the legislature to finally approve the bill. We also appreciate the support of Senators Chiz Escudero and TG Guingona, and Reps. Edcel Lagman and Erin Tañada.
Here and abroad, we were supported by various peace, justice and human rights advocates in the campaign for the bill’s passage. We extend our solidarity and gratefulness to solidarity groups in the United States, Hong Kong and Switzerland who warmly supported and mobilized in the campaign for the passage of the law, as well as in helping the victims every step of the way. We also thank the members of Parliament of Switzerland as well as its mission in Geneva for lending an ear to the victims’ pleas every time we lobby for their support. Most of all, we commend and deeply thank the members of the peace panel and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who tirelessly asserted, in the process of all peace negotiations with the Philippine government, that the victims of Martial Law should attain justice.
It is with pain and regret for us to witness the passage of this law at a time when many of our fellow victims and colleagues, who took part in the struggle against martial rule, have gone ahead of us. Also, there are still attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase in 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.
Under the law, the Philippine government is obliged to recognize and give reparation to the victims of human rights violations during martial law. While all the sacrifices and heroism of the Filipino people during martial law is priceless, we see these both as an affirmation to the people who struggle for justice, and as a warning to those who will continue to impose fascism and terror upon the Filipino people.
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.
We may be jubilant, but we continue to watch with vigilance. To fully ensure that the law will serve the rightful victims and claimants, we will try to make sure that the HRV Victims Claims Board shall be composed of individuals who, in one way or another, know and can feel with the victims and have been involved in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorial regime.
We take cognizance that SELDA is part of the recommending entities to the Claims Board. We challenge the administration to appoint nominees of SELDA despite some government officials’ bias given SELDA’s political stands.
Also, it should be ensured that those who are included in the master list of the 9,539 victims and those who will consequently file their claims are those who were genuinely part of the struggle against martial law. We should guard against unnecessary bureaucratic processes and scams which will deprive the victims of just indemnification.
We should also take the opportunity to make the younger generation learn, understand and take on the challenge of having the same daring, vigilance, militancy and commitment to justice and human rights.
It has been 40 years after martial law but human rights violations continue to be committed, and with impunity. There has not been much change except for the worse under the dispensations that succeeded the U.S.-Marcos regime. The Marcos laws and executive orders were retained by the succeeding administrations. The militarist mindset and fascist machinery remain intact especially with the continuous implementation of the US-backed counter-insurgency programs
As long as human rights violations continue, with or without martial law, we stand with the people for justice, democracy and human rights. NEVER AGAIN will we allow the enemies of the people to perpetuate the same injustices, oppression and exploitation against the majority of the Filipino people. ###
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-561-6800
SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan proudly represented the victims of human rights violations during Martial Law, at the 27th People Power Anniversary gathering at EDSA. In a speech delivered at People Power Monument, Ilagan said that the law is meaningful – beyond the monetary compensation, it is a step in keeping the memory etched in our nation’s history. Now known as the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is a victory and a tribute for the people who fought the dictatorship. It is a product of a decade-long struggle of the victims, a testimony of the struggle in society, and the people’s historic task to end the prevailing culture of impunity.
Justice, freedom and democracy are not served on a silver platter – these are fought for. Hear the victims-heroes of Martial Law – NEVER AGAIN!
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.
Streetwise* | Business World By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
In memoriam: Atty. Eduardo G. Araullo (1947-2013)
This column has been absent for some time due to health issues confounding its writer. The prolonged leave from political and social activism and the lengthy pause from writing a weekly column in this paper had given rise to an unfamiliar ennui.
The untimely and completely unexpected demise of human rights lawyer, Atty. Eduardo G. Araullo, last January 19 – a person who had been held in esteem by his co-workers, friends, relatives and even acquaintances, as an upright man, a patriot and a social reformer – prompts me to once more string words together, to find meaning, and draw comfort and not a few lessons, from his uncommon life.
Ed Araullo could be compared to the proverbial elephant whose nature several blind men had been trying to figure out by touching different parts of its body but in the process missing out on the whole.
For it seems there is a piece of him there for his very wide social circle that includes high government officials and functionaries; revolutionaries (current and ex-); bishops, priests and nuns; and ordinary folk he had been able to extend a helping hand to at one time or another. They gathered at his wake – an interesting mix of people high and low, cutting across social classes, philosophical orientations and political persuasions and pretensions.
Ed came from a middle-class family, the seventh in a brood of nine children. He and his siblings were raised in Guagua, Pampanga and Malabon by unassuming parents who put a premium on honesty, hard work, discipline, frugal living and clan solidarity to achieve success in life.
He studied in De La Salle University from elementary to high school where he formed his bonds with lifelong friends and imbibed Christian and humanitarian ideals.
Upon entering the University of the Philippines, Ed became a Marxist student radical in the late sixties and early seventies. He was an indefatigable recruiter of students into the Nationalist Corps who then went on to become more mature national democratic or “ND” activists in Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and Kabataang Makabayan.
He was a well-known fixture in student politics, an indomitable behind-the-scenes figure helping to engineer the victories of “ND” activists in the hotly-contested student council elections.
Ed joined the underground movement upon the declaration of martial law. He was arrested, tortured and illegally detained like thousands of other youth during that time. When he was released he continued his law studies and went on to become a labor lawyer in the true sense of the word, lawyering for and in behalf of workers and trade unions.
As the resistance to the Marcos dictatorship intensified and became more widespread, human rights violations by state security forces mounted. Professionals such as teachers, lawyers and doctors began to stir from their apolitical slumber to defend peasants, urban poor and workers who were bearing the brunt of the fascist dictatorship’s attacks.
Atty. Araullo, together with other young progressive lawyers, joined hands with stalwart nationalists and civil libertarians such as Senator Jose W. Diokno, to establish the first lawyers’ human rights organization FLAG (Free Legal Assistance Group). Thereafter Ed co-founded and chaired the more political lawyers’ organization MABINI (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism) together with such leading lights as Atty. Rene Saguisag and Atty. (now Vice-President) Jejomar “Jojo” Binay.
Among those who took the time to express their grief and condole with Ed’s family were his pro bono clients, many of them victims of political repression not just under the Marcos dictatorship but also during the so-called democratic regimes that followed.
When the dictatorship fell, Ed helped MABINI lawyer Bobbit Sanchez who was appointed Labor Secretary, and was himself appointed to a post in Geneva, Switzerland. Subsequently, he returned to private life and concentrated on building his law practice and raising his young family.
By some twist of fate, he became the lawyer and friend of Fernando Poe Jr or “FPJ”, the man who would be president of the republic but was cheated of the chance by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He also became one of the unconventional campaign managers of Makati Mayor Binay when the latter undertook an uphill run for the vice presidency in 2010. (Ed liked to say that he used “united front” tactics in cobbling together the “Noybi” movement that supported “Noynoy” Aquino for president and Binay for vice president.) Mr. Binay achieved an electoral upset to become the current second highest official of the land.
Subsequently, when asked what position he was interested in, Ed refused any government appointment.
Until he was asked to help Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Chair Margie Juico clean up that government agency in order for it to become more effective in delivering charitable aid from state-controlled lottery revenues to the poor and needy. Ed’s deeply-ingrained social reforming streak became agitated and challenged by the offer of public service. He took it on with gusto.
As PCSO board secretary, Ed not only became involved in rooting out corrupt practices ingrained in the agency but in putting in place institutional reforms that would help it become more effective, transparent, and less prone to wastage and graft and corruption.
He became a key witness in the plunder case filed against former President Gloria Arroyo, a job he did not relish but which he dutifully accepted, in order to demonstrate to the PCSO rank and file that the new leadership was running after the big-time crooks that stole the monies intended for charity and not just the small fry.
Ed had expressed several times his desire to be of help in breaking the impasse in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). In fact he said that if this had been the job offered him from the beginning, he would have given it priority. Whenever his help was sought in trying to find ways to overcome obstacles, he readily took discrete steps but unfortunately, the Aquino government’s hardline stance could not be overcome.
In the last years of his life, Ed revealed himself more and more as a staunch patriot, a persistent social reformer, and a helpful and caring friend to his legion of friends and “friends” of friends. He also uncovered his growing spirituality as he invoked biblical references and his faith in a just and kind God to spur on the reforms the new PCSO management was undertaking.
Fortunately, Ed also had the chance to be a loving husband and an inspiration and role-model to his three children – Sarah, Sandino and Joshua – on what it means to be an upright man, in an unconventional, out-of-the-box sort of way.
It is hoped that his life story and example can be shared to other young people so that they may begin to appreciate the kind of meaningful, if unheralded, life one can live as a Filipino and as a human being. #
*To be published in Business World 26-27 January 2013
Photos from Mon Ramirez’ photo albums:
On the Army chief’s statement that Palparan is the last of his kind
“Lt. Gen. Bautista is lying” – SELDA
The recent statement made by Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the chief of the Philippine Army drew ire from members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA).
“Lt. Gen. Bautista is lying. There are clones of Palparan in the AFP because it breeds the likes of Palparan. It’s not about dishing out phrases like ‘respect for human rights’. It’s about actual rights violations being committed by the AFP and its paramilitary forces,” said Angie Ipong, Selda Secretary General.
Selda said that illegal arrest, torture and other grave forms of human rights violations continue under the Aquino government Oplan Bayanihan. Activists and even civilians continue to become victims of trumped-up charges as the military tries to beat its deadline to end the “insurgency”.
The recent arrest of Rolly Panesa on October 5 is a proof that people are arrested arbitrarily, and on mere suspicion that he is an ‘enemy of the state’ and based on trumped up charges, in violation of his rights.
Panesa, a security guard, was illegally arrested by joint elements of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, led by Southern Luzon Commander Maj. General Alan Luga, and the Philippine National Police. He was severely tortured because the military misidentified him for a certain “Benjamin Mendoza,” supposedly the secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Southern Luzon, with a reward of PhP 5.6 million.
Marites Chioco, Panesa’s live-in partner was also abducted, with her daughter and son-in-law. Chioco was forced to admit that she is ‘Ka Luisa’ whom the military claimed as “Mendoza’s” wife. It was Chioco who saw Panesa blindfolded while his cheeks were bruised, his mouth was swollen and lower jaw pushed in. Panesa’s right ear was also bleeding because of heavy beatings. Rolly Panesa is currently detained at the Security Intensive Care Area (SICA), Metro Manila District Jail in Taguig City for rebellion and frustrated murder.
What happened to Panesa is no different from what Raymond Manalo went through when he was abducted, tortured and detained in 2006 by soldiers under Palparan’s command. “Palparan may be retired but Panesa’s case certainly shows there are other Palparan’s in the AFP,” added Ipong.
Aside from Panesa, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) continues to be tortured as he remains detained in isolation at Fort Bonifacio. Other political prisoners like Ramon Patriarca, Allan Jazmines, also a NDFP consultant and Ericson Acosta, have been charged with trumped-up offenses and are among the 123 political prisoners under the Aquino government. There are currently 401 political prisoners in the country.
“The AFP has a long tradition of being a mercenary, a protector of the interests of the elite, and against the poor. For as long as the AFP exists to protect the interests of the landlord and the big business the likes of Palparan will continue to exist,” Ipong concluded. ###
Reference: Angie Ipong, Secretary General (09499587373)
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