Martial law activists led by SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) on Wednesday challenged the Senate and the Aquino government to pass the indemnification bill for Martial Law victims on or before December 10, International Human Rights Day.
“Just do it and pass the bill,” said Martial Law activist and SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez. “Statements here and there by our honorable senators and the President stating that the bill will be passed are all well and good, but we need all of you to ACT NOW and pass the bill into a law!,” Enriquez said.
Wearing shirts that say “Pass the Indemnification Bill Now!” some 20 leaders and members of SELDA trooped to the Senate session hall and dared to seek audience with the senators even if Senate 2615, also known as The Human Rights Victims Compensation Act of 2011, is not in the agenda of the plenary session.
The bill, if approved, shall provide compensation for thousands of victims of Martial Law. According to Enriquez, indeminification is an admission and acknowledgment that the Marcos dictatorship committed grave violations of human rights against the Filipino people. They also believe that the recognition which Martial Law victims are entitled to is already “beyond justification.”
“PNoy and our honorable senators still have 26 days until December 10 to make good their promise to the Swiss President and the international commuity. We hope that the Executive and the Senate get their acts together and stop using us to deodorize their image among nations that they are now reformed politicians who respect human rights,” Enriquez said.
According to Enriquez, there are three points which they are continuously lobbying to be included in the bill: 1) the acknowledgment of the 9,539 victims who filed the historic class suit against the Marcoses in Hawaii, therefore recognizing the State’s legal and moral obligation to them; 2) the removal of the clause which consider legitimate victims of human rights violations as only those who “peacefully” exercised their civil and political rights during martial law; and, 3) the inclusion of SELDA as one of the organizations that represent and facilitate services for the victims.
“These points are crucial for justice and recognition if we are to say that this bill shall truly represent the plight of the victims,” said Enriquez.
SELDA said the indemnification bill will be one of the main issues which they will carry on until December 10, as well as towards the upcoming elections in 2013.
“We will know who among national candidates have a basic sense of redress and justice. The candidates’ action for the passage of the indemnification bill will serve as a parameter for us who are victims and survivors,” Enriquez said. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-561-6800
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