“Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s lame defense of the appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento as head of the martial law claims board is as lame as his understanding of the very essence of the law that he is supposed to implement. It is very clear in the letter of the law that the board members should possess known probity, competence, integrity, deep and thorough understanding & knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts vs Martial Law human rights violations. Nowhere in his statement defending Sarmiento reflect such adherence to the law.”
“Aquino installed a police general, from the dreaded institution-purveyors of human rights violations, whose “experience” in tackling human rights issues is highly questionable. As head of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office, she dismissed calls for investigation on cases of rights abuses of the military and police which were raised by the international community during the Arroyo administration. In the 2013 AFP-MNLF Zamboanga City stand-off, she was eerily silent on the reported torture and other human rights violations committed against civilians and suspected MNLF members. If her record is as muddied as her concept of human rights, what of Sarmiento’s “experience” then has Aquino considered?”
“If Aquino is worried about “fending of those who want to sabotage the law” as he says, he should just look at the mirror. By appointing Sarmiento, Aquino appears as the primary saboteur of the intent of the law to provide justice and reparations to Martial Law victims.”
Cristina Palabay secretary general
Women rights group Tanggol Bayi criticized the recent appointment of Gen. Lina Sarmiento of the Philippine National Police as chair of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board that shall process the recognition and reparation of Martial Law victims.
“The appointment of a police general, one from an institution which has systematically spawned rights violations including numerous sexual forms of violence against women since the Martial Law period, is an affront to Filipinos and all victims of human rights abuses,” said Kiri Dalena, Tanggol Bayi convenor.
Dalena said that during the Marcos regime, thousands of women were killed, disappeared, tortured, raped, illegally arrested, and detained by the Philippine Constabulary and other government apparatuses to quell the resistance of the Filipino people against the dictatorship.
“These human rights violations are continued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. During the Arroyo administration, when Sarmiento was part of the PNP Human Rights Office, 152 women were victims of extrajudicial killing, 31 women were disappeared, while 290 women were illegally arrested and detained,” said Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi co-convenor.
Under the Noynoy Aquino administration, human rights group Karapatan documented 18 victims of extrajudicial killing, 3 cases of rape of girls, and 33 women political prisoners who were likewise victims of illegal arrests and fabricated charges.
Palabay added that with Sarmiento’s appointment, “Pres. Aquino is using a female police official to deodorize stinking institutions with notorious records of human rights abuses.”
“We decry Aquino’s use of the gender card to justify the appointment of a police general to a body that is supposed to deliver justice to women victims of Martial Law. While it is important to promote the substantive and democratic participation of women in all political processes, the appointment of Sarmiento does not, at all accounts, indicate that the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged Filipino women who suffered and struggled during the Martial Law period will attain justice, with a representative of their oppressors at the helm of the claims body,” Palabay said.
Tanggol Bayi likewise scored Malacanang’s disregard for its women nominees to the claims board, who are publicly known for their “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations” and “clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.” These are minimum qualifications needed for claims board members under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
The women’s group nominated former Rep. Liza Maza, one of the primary authors of the said law and a known women’s rights activist, and Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, who is a Martial Law victim and a women’s rights advocate. They also supported the nomination of Marie Hilao Enriquez, a veteran human rights activist and daughter of one of the named plaintiffs in the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses.
Reference: Kiri Dalena, Convenor (0920-9755574) Cristina Palabay, Convenor (0917-3162831)
“Empty celebration” as long as reparation for and recognition of Martial Law victims remain lip serviceNews Release 15 August 2013
SELDA on the grandiose preparation to commemorate Ninoy’s anniversary
“Empty celebration” as long as reparation for and recognition of Martial Law victims remain lip service
Rights group SELDA said the upcoming activities commemorating the assasination of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino will remain as “empty celebrations” as long as the reparation and recognition for Martial Law victims remain as lip service and unimplemented by the Noynoy Aquino administration.
“We remember the death of Ninoy as one that might have triggered the final push to oust the dictator; but years before his assassination, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who were lesser known than Ninoy, have sacrificed their lives to fight against the tyrannical rule of the dictator. Like Ninoy, they deserve to be recognized, their deeds made known to a nation grateful for its heroes. August 21 is one of those times we can remember them together with Ninoy, yet after a long, hard, even lonely struggle, the law that was supposed to do this – the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Law, finally signed by President Noynoy Aquino on February 25, 2013, has not been implemented up till now,” SELDA chairpeson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
The group described the non-formation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board as stipulated in the law, as “mockery” to the victims who painstakingly demanded reparation and recognition for decades now.
“Now that another commemoration of Ninoy’s assasination is to be observed again we can only feel insulted at how the Aquino government will throw out festivities once more. This, while the thousands of heroes of Martial Law are painfully waiting for the formation of the claims board, the first and most basic step in the implementation of the law,” Enriquez said.
The Claims Board, the primary body that will evaluate and recognize the victims of the Marcos dictatorship is yet to be formed after Pres. Aquino signed RA 10368 on the occasion of the 27th People Power Anniversary, February 25 this year.
Martial Law victims will submit another letter to Pres. Aquino on August 21, demanding for the law’s implementation. A protest action will also be held at the foot of Mendiola to be participated in by hundreds of Martial Law victims from Manila and nearby provinces.
“Malacañang has a lot of explaining to do, not only to the victims but to the general public, why there is so much delay in the formation of the claims board. Moreover, we are questioning the apparent effort to exclude SELDA, the organization which led the historic filing of the class suit against the Marcoses, for the plunder and rights violations against the people,” Enriquez pointed out.
Include all Hawaii class suit members
Meanwhile, SELDA welcomed the new settlement agreement involving an artwork “owned” by Imelda Marcos.
The group said, however, that the new agreement should include all the original 9,539 victims who were part of the class suit in Hawaii. It can be remembered that in the $10 million Swift-Campos settlement agreement, only 7,526 out of the 9,539 claimant-victims were given their share from the settlement.
“The more than 2,000 victims who were denied of compensation in the first settlement is equivalent to a blatant disenfranchisement and non-recognition. Delisting them for the second time is unforgivable,” Enriquez said.
Nevertheless, Enriquez said recognition to the victims as soon as the law is implemented, is important and valuable. “No amount of money is equivalent to the recognition that shall etch the role played by the Martial Law heroes in our nation’s history,” Enriquez concluded. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
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
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