MANILA, Philippines – A two-star general was put on a hot seat after critics questioned her qualifications as the newly appointed chairperson of a compensation board tasked to determine who were victims of Martial Law that deserve compensation.
This came after President Benigno Aquino III appointed police general Lina Castillo-Sarmiento to head the Martial Law Victims Claims Board.
Lawmakers and human rights groups expressed dismay over the President’s appointment of Sarmiento and vowed to seek intervention from the Supreme Court to reverse the Palace decision.
Senator Joker Arroyo appealed to Aquino in his open letter to the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer to re-examine the basis for the appointment of Sarmiento.
Arroyo said Sarmiento’s track record on human rights today does not qualify her to the position as she was never involved in human rights advocacy during the Martial Law years.
“The appointment of a general from the uniformed services to preside as chair over the adjudication of the claims for reparation and recognition of the human rights victims is a stinging repudiation of our 15 years of struggle for freedom and democracy, which culminated in the national incandescence at EDSA,” the elder lawmaker stated.
According to Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, the appointment of Sarmiento as claims board chair is a violation of the criteria that a member of the compensation board should have a “clear commitment on human rights protection and promotion.”
Colmenares said that under former President Gloria Arroyo, Sarmiento headed the Philippine National Police-Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP-HRAO).
“General Sarmiento openly defended former President Gloria Arroyo from charges of human rights violations and extra judicial killings, practically tolerating the human rights record of the Arroyo regime,” he stressed.
Republic Act 10368, also known as the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, requires the members of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to possess the following qualifications:
- Must be of known probity, competence and integrity;
- Must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos
- Must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.
Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and members of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court to ask the high court to nullify Sarmiento’s appointment.
According to the petition, “human rights victims are not beggars and are not concerned merely with seeking compensation for themselves for past and continuing atrocities.”
“Compensation is a component of justice. Re-writing the history of human rights violations during the martial law regime is the bigger picture. By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” it added.
Senator Arroyo, Colmenares and Ocampo are among those who experienced torture and detention by the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary, where Sarmiento was a member.
“We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations go unpunished. Letting a Martial Law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose,” Ocampo stated.
According to SELDA, there are about 10, 000 victims of human rights violations under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
RA 10368 was signed into law by President Aquino on February 2013 on the occasion of the anniversary of the historic People Power uprising that ousted the dictator president.
MANILA, Philippines—As the Aquino administration celebrated the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, victims of martial law went to the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop a retired police director from chairing the board that would determine compensation for victims of the Marcos regime.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo was among those who filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction as well as an application for a temporary restraining order against Lina Sarmiento, whom President Aquino named chair of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
Named respondents in the petition were Aquino, who was accused of committing grave abuse of discretion when he appointed Sarmiento, former chief of the Philippine National Police Community Relations Group under the government’s counterinsurgency program and head of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) before her new appointment.
Ocampo and five other petitioners told the high court that they were aghast that Aquino had appointed a police general to head the claims board.
They said Sarmiento’s appointment was “illegal” and should be declared void as she failed to meet the minimum qualifications for a board member set by Republic Act No. 10368, or the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
In their petition, they said Sarmiento did not meet the requirements that she “must be of known probity, competence and integrity (Section 8a); must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Marcos (8b); and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
The petitioners said the President “may argue that respondent Sarmiento has a track record as a member and officer of the PNP but it cannot be denied that she lacks the mandated qualifications set forth under the law, and the institution she represents lacks the credibility and integrity to deliver justice to human rights victims.”
The petitioners also said that when Sarmiento was HRAO chief, she “became part of the machinery, which ‘attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.’”
One case Sarmiento handled was about farmer Renante Romagus who survived abduction and torture. He was stabbed and left for dead in December 2007 in Compostela Valley province, Ocampo et al. said.
They said Sarmiento dismissed calls for investigations of Romagus’ case “as she lamely but callously blamed instead the victims’ inability to identify his perpetrators.”
They also said Sarmiento was a member of Task Force Usig, created by the Arroyo administration which investigated extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances but which they pointed out had failed to do its job.
The petitioners noted that there was nothing on public record to show that Sarmiento was involved in any effort against atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship.
“If at all, she was a silent, passive, if not acquiescent cog in the security apparatus of the repressive dictatorship,” they said.
Ocampo et al. said their petition was not a question of not only whether Sarmiento was qualified under the law to assume such post but also of whether the President’s act of approving her appointment “contravenes the very essence of the law he is supposed to implement.”
And they said the answer to both questions was “in the negative.”
“Therefore, the illegal and unjustifiable appointment by no less than respondent Aquino, the very person who signed the law and a son of supposed icons of Philippine democracy, of a former police general representative of or coming from an institution that has perpetrated gross human rights violations during the Marcos regime—and even up to the present—negates and renders nugatory the very purpose for which the law was enacted,” they said.
The petitioners said the high court should declare Sarmiento’s appointment null and void because the President had committed grave abuse of discretion.
“By appointing a former police general to head the human rights board, the President is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence and concealed them with a veneer of impunity,” they said.
Aside from Ocampo, the other petitioners were Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Bayan chair Carolina Araullo, and Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi and Josephine Dongail—members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto.
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.
David Dizon | ABS-CBNnews.com
Coming soon: Martial Law Memorial a la Holocaust
MANILA – Victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos will get an estimated P500,000 each with the passage of the Marcos Compensation Bill.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a member of the bicameral conference committee, said the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2012 is the result of years of work to properly indemnify victims of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship.
“It is beyond compensation but reparation and recognition for the human rights victims during martial law. It is not a big sum of money now pero malaking tulong pa rin sa mga matatanda nang victims,” he told radio dzMM.
Under the law, those qualified to receive compensation are victims of human rights violations committed from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. Compensation will come from funds amounting to P10 billion transferred to the Bureau of Treasury through the order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997.
The new law states a Human Rights Claims Board will be created to determine people qualified to get compensation.
Colmenares said the board will create the internal rules and regulations that will detail the process of recognition, compensation and reparation.
He said groups such as SELDA and Task Force Detainees can nominate human rights advocates “with deep understanding of the human rights situation during martial law” to join the board.
Representatives from the National Historical Institute, the Commission on Human Rights, and the University of the Philippines Main Library could also join the board, he said.
“It is a combination of agencies with historical and human rights mandates,” he said.
2 years to distribute compensation
Colmenares said there will be 2 groups of claimants for compensation. The first group is composed of 9,539 victims in the Hawaii class action suit against the Marcoses.
The new law states that the Hawaii complainants are presumed victims of martial law abuses and would no longer have to prove their claims for compensation.
The second group, Colmenares said, will include individuals not included in the Hawaii class action suit.
He said that once the board is set up, there will be an information campaign to allow possible claimants to apply within the 6-month period.
Claimants will also be screened by the board. A point system will be followed in determining the amount that each victim or their kin will receive, with those tortured or killed getting a higher compensation than those harassed or economically disadvantaged during martial law.
Colmenares said the board will then have 2 years to finish the process of compensation.
“Tinaningan na. Dapat in 2 years, they must get it in 2 years. We can actually give compensation to the Hawaii claimants in the first year. It is a maximum of 2 years,” he said.
Martial Law Memorial
The lawmaker said the law also establishes a Martial Law Memorial where the names of all victims of human rights violations will be enshrined.
“It was in the Senate version. In fact, ang narinig ko it will be equal to the Holocaust Musem. It will contain memorabilia, stories at kung ano pa mang bagay that will give us an idea on what happened during Martial Law. And, of course, the role of the victims, yung mga pangalan nila ilalagay duon sa memorial na yan,” he said.
Colmenares said he has already asked Education Secretary Armin Luistro about including the teaching of martial law in the school curriculum. He noted that in some textbooks, discussion about martial law is reduced to a single page and equates the period to land reform.
The lawmaker said the memorial and proper education will help the next generation understand the lessons of martial law.
“It brings back the experience of martial law and hopefully, the lessons will be inculcated
They need the real picture of what happened during martial law,” he said.
He also said he is disappointed that not one member of the Marcos family went to jail despite the crimes committed during martial law.
“Nagiging hungkag ang call na ‘Never again to martial law’ kasi parang walang lesson learned, walang accountability,” he said.
He noted that one good thing that came out after the 1986 EDSA Revolution is that the entire world recognizes Ferdinand Marcos as a dictator.
“Kami naman sa Bayan Muna, we will really work hard na hindi maulit ang apelyidong yan (Marcos) sa panguluhan,” he said.
Bongbong hands off
Meantime, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said his family already has nothing to do with granting reparations for victims of human rights human rights violations during the regime of his father.
A day after the Senate ratified a measure giving compensation to martial law victims, Marcos said the issue is only between human rights claimants and the government, which now possesses the money confiscated from his family.
“The judgments have been made against us and our position has been very clear. The government has confiscated the assets, so it’s up to the government to now dispose of them as they see fit,” he said.
Marcos added that from the very start, he was never involved in discussions on the bill.
“I just recused myself from the discussions because I cannot be seen ever to be objective about the subject,” he said.
Ngayong hapon, Enero 23, inaprubahan ng bicameral conference committee ang final version ng Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Ito ang produkto ng pinagsanib na bersyon ng Marcos victims indemnification bill na naunang isinulong ng SELDA katuwang ang mga progresibong partylist sa pangunguna ng awtor na isang kapwa Martial Law victim, si Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Sa pinal na bersyon, kinikilala na ang mga biktima ng Martial Law ay kinikilala bilang mga tunay na biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Kasama dito ang mga 9,539 biktima na nagsampa ng class suit laban sa mga Marcos sa Hawaii noong 1986. Pasok ang probisyong “conclusive presumption” na kumikilala sa mga biktima.
Sa Lunes ay iraratipika na ang panukalang batas. Ibig sabihin, matapos pirmahan ng bicameral committee, ito ay itutulak na para mapirmahan ni Aquino.
Bagamat tiyak na mahaba pa ang labang ito, isang tagumpay ang pagkilala sa mga biktima ng Martial Law hindi lang para sa kanila kundi sa mamamayang Pilipino. Kailangang tiyaking malubos ang tagumpay na ito. Magagawa natin ito sa ating patuloy na sama-samang pagkilos.
Sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng SELDA, mga biktima at kaanak na kumilos sa Senado kanina, mabuhay kayo! Hustisya sa lahat ng mga biktima ng Martial Law! Hustisya sa lahat ng biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao!
Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer
A group of martial law detainees on Monday appealed to Congress to automatically consider some 9,000 individuals who won a class suit against the Marcoses in Hawaii victims of human rights violations entitled to government compensation.
Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) directed its plea to the bicameral conference committee, which is hammering out the final version of a bill that seeks to indemnify victims of abuses during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
The remuneration would come from the P10 billion in Marcos ill-gotten wealth that Swiss authorities had returned to the Philippine government after the dictator’s ouster in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Selda, which led the filing of the Hawaii case, said claimants must be conclusively presumed as human rights violations victims, as stated in the House of Representatives version of the bill.
The bicameral conference committee is debating on whether to follow the House version or the Senate version, which states that there is a “disputable presumption” that the claimants are victims, meaning they are subject to validation. The panel is to meet on Wednesday following a first meeting last week.
In a statement, Selda chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said that to make the claimants in the Hawaii case undergo a rigorous validation process again would undermine their efforts to seek justice.
“Such a provision is dangerous, for if this is included and passed into law, the victims who filed and won the Hawaii case will once again undergo and endure the painful and rigorous process to prove that they were indeed violated during martial law,” Enriquez said.
“We are adamant that conclusive presumption should be the principle adopted to automatically consider the 9,539 victims who pursued and won the Hawaii case under the proposed Philippine law,” she added.
Enriquez also said the group was pushing the compensation bill to enforce the 1992 judgment in the Hawaii case, which was to indemnify the martial law victims.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the Hawaii claimants and a coauthor of the bill, also said that it would be dangerous to do away with the conclusive presumption clause.
He said some of the victims may be unable to present evidence to defend themselves if their application for compensation was contested, considering the many years that had passed.
Colmenares would not be filing any application for compensation since he was the author of the bill, but he added that he himself would be hard put to find the evidence to show he was tortured and imprisoned for four years.
And if a Hawaii claimant was denied by the compensation board, it would just lend credence to the Marcoses’ claim that many of those who filed the court case were fake martial law victims, according to Colmenares.
“It is surely unkind to make the Hawaii victims, the majority of whom are very old now, to again relive before the compensation board their rape, torture and sufferings. This is outrageous,” he said.
He also defended the House provision that states that 80 percent of the compensation fund would go to the Hawaii claimants, and the remaining 20 percent to other claimants.
About 10,000 purported victims have filed cases against the Marcoses following the long and tedious court processes in Hawaii. But Congress is not sure how many of those who did not file cases will apply for compensation, especially since 40 years have passed since martial law was declared in 1972.
Selda also said the compensation bill must recognize all human rights violations victims during the martial law regime, and not just those who were exercising their rights “peacefully” as stated in the Senate version.
“It will be the height of historical amnesia and ignorance to only recognize the rights violations against those who ‘peacefully exercised their rights,’ as if the situation during the martial law years would permit such an exercise,” Enriquez said.
She said those who marched and defended themselves against the Philippine Constabulary and those who joined the communist New People’s Army also had rights.
Joker Arroyo slammed
Enriquez criticized Sen. Joker Arroyo for reportedly derailing the panel’s initial meeting last week by insisting, as embodied in the Senate version of the bill, on limiting reparation to those who fought the dictatorship through peaceful means.
“Arroyo wants to exclude those who resorted to armed resistance during martial law, implying that in doing so, they had given up their rights,” Enriquez told the Inquirer after a meeting in the office of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace and unification.
Asked for a reaction, Arroyo’s staff released to the Inquirer without comment a letter from Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, pointing out that the 80-20 ratio provision in the proposed package would nullify the intention of the measure—to give reparation to all victims of human rights abuses.
Arroyo was one of the few prominent lawyers, including the late Jose W. Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada, who defended human rights victims during the martial law years. With a report from Cathy Yamsuan
The Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a group formed by Martial Law victims that led the filing of the historic class action suit against former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in Hawaii, today reiterated its position on the issues being debated upon at the bicameral conference committee on the Marcos victims compensation bill.
Marie Hilao Enriquez, SELDA chairperson and daughter of one of the original plaintiffs in the Hawaii case, enjoined members of the bicameral conference committee “to adopt provisions which are acceptable to the victims and their relatives, instead of undermining their arduous and persevering efforts for justice and indemnification.”
“For one, we are deeply disappointed with the utter disregard shown by Sen. Joker Arroyo and Rep. Walden Bello when they dismissed the efforts of the 9,539 victims who filed the class action suit in Hawaii by pursuing a provision on disputable presumption. Such provision is dangerous, for if this is included and passed into law, the victims who filed and won the Hawaii case will once again undergo and endure the painful and rigorous process to prove that they were indeed violated during Martial Law. We are adamant that conclusive presumption should be the principle adopted to automatically consider the 9,539 victims who pursued and won the Hawaii case under the proposed Philippine law,” Enriquez opined.
SELDA agrees with the Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, himself a victim and among the class members in the Hawaii suit, in his position asserting for conclusive presumption, as this is in fact an acknowledgement of the State of the judgment of the US courts, which found Marcos and his cronies guilty for the human rights violations under Martial Law. “To run counter to this position is tantamount to opening a Pandora’s box for the Marcoses to evade the US courts’ judgment,” Enriquez said.
The human rights organization added that this is not to discriminate on other victims who failed to file and join in the class action suit. “We wish to remind our legislators and the public that the reason we are pushing for a law to indemnify martial law victims, is to finally enforce the Historic Hawaii Class Suit judgement which we won in 1992.” Enriquez declared “The Philippine government required that a law must be made to indemnify martial law victims from the ill-gotten money the Swiss government returned to them in 2003. They should be made a priority.”
Moreover, SELDA reiterated that the bicameral committee members should recognize human rights violations against all Martial Law victims, instead of discriminating against those who opted to take up arms to defend themselves and many others from further human rights violations
inflicted by the dictator.
“It will be the height of historical amnesia and ignorance to only recognize the rights violations against those who ‘peacefully exercised their rights,’ as if the situation during the Martial Law years would permit such exercise. Ang mga nagmartsa ba at pinagtanggol ang sarili sa mga miyembro ng Philippine Constabulary, at yung mga sumali sa New People’s Army ay walang mga karapatan? All those whose rights were violated should be rendered justice,” Enriquez said.
Finally the group reiterated its position to be included in the Human Rights Claim Board: “When Selda filed the now historic class suit vs, Marcos in 1986, we took on the research, interview and gathered documents that were brought to the Hawaii Courts. Many victims became members of Selda and we continue to have chapters in various parts of the country. The help of members in identifying and verifying victims would be valuable in the process once the law is enacted and implemented.” Enriquez ended. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez 09175616800