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.