We denounce the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento as chair of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB). After prolonging the formation of the HRVCB for almost a year, the Aquino government made a historical affront to the victims by appointing a former member of the Philippine Constabulary, the forerunner of the PNP, as head of the Claims Board. It is not only her credentials as former PC officer that is an anathema to the historic struggle against martial law, but her zero track records of any involvement in asserting human rights nor any understanding or knowledge ofthe plights and struggles of martial law victims during and after the dark days of Marcos Dictatorship.
On 13 February 2014, Malacañang announced the formation of the HRVCB a year after the passage of RA 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III appointed Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, a retired 2-star general of the Philippine National Police as chair of the HRVCB. To complete the members of the board, also appointed are Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Byron Bocar, Aurora Parong, Galuasch Ballaho, Jacqueline Mejia, Glenda Litong, Wilfred Asis and Erlinda Senturias.
The PC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are the main apparatuses of the Marcos dictatorship in implementing the worst of human rights abuses under Martial Law. It is the PC and the AFP that dispersed rallies, “salvaged,” abducted, tortured, arrested and detained thousands of Martial Law activists. Her presence in the Claims Board does not command respect nor confidence in the hearts of the Martial Law victims.
In appointing Gen. Sarmiento, the Aquino government junks altogether the state’s admission of the atrocities and repression used against the Filipino people, the supposed objective of the law. Instead, it promotes into position those who violated the people’s human rights. This is no different from the Pres. Aquino’s appointment of military officials to higher positions under his presidency.
BS Aquino’s Claims Board does not represent the victims of Martial Law. The Aquino government completely disregarded the provision in the law which underlines that members of the HRVCB should have deep knowledge, capacity and experience in defending human rights. Not a single nominee of SELDA, most of them widely known as Martial Law victims and human rights champions, was appointed to the Claims Board. Much to our dismay, CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales and DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima even came to the rescue by saying said that Gen. Sarmiento is qualified for the job.
However the Aquino government justifies it, the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento goes way beyond the issue of qualifications. It is a travesty of justice. It is a conscious effort to discredit and dishonour Martial Law victims. The Aquino government, which has banked on the people’s clamor for justice and change, is trying to push the people’s struggle for justice farther in the sidelines. The appointment of a PC relic to head the claims board is not only considered a grievous insult to the struggle against martial law but a shameless denial of the ideals in asserting freedom and democracy that was highlighted during the first Edsa People Power in 1986.
With its brandishing of human rights violators in the military and the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento, the people who fought the dictatorship cannot expect anything more from the current administration. It is rather just to continue to fight for justice. SELDA demands the immediate recall to Sarmiento’s appointment.
SELDA has formed the People’s Claims Board (PCB).This will be the primary body to stand for the victims of Martial Law. It will ensure that all who suffered atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship shall be recognized and indemnified. The PCB will also ensure that RA 10368 will be implemented. It will formulate an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which will be submitted to the HRVCB as basis of the law’s implementation.
The PCB will continue to assert that, based on conclusive presumption, the 2,013 Martial Law victims that were delisted (who were part of the 9,539 members of the class suit against the Marcoses filed in Hawaii in 1986) and thosewho will step forward to make themselves recognized will be rightfully recognized and indemnified.
The PCB is composed of individuals actively in defense of human rights, and were victims themselves. They are Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo; SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez; SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan; former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza; University of the Philippines Prof. Judy Taguiwalo; Dr. Edelina dela Paz; Atty. Kit Enriquez, Atty. Marcos Risonarand Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr.
Martial law victims in the regions of Southern Mindanao, Bicol and Panay launched also similar protest actions to express their grievances on the formation of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
SELDA will continue to fight for justice for the victims of human rights violations.As long as the perpetrators are in power, and the Aquino government continues to implement the same policy of extrajudicial killings, abduction and enforced disappearances, illegal arrest and detention, torture and the wanton use of martial law tactics against the struggling people, we will continue to stand and assert for justice. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800 Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator, 0917-5965859
SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) pays its highest tribute to Atty. Romeo Candazo, youth activist, public servant, journalist, educator, human rights lawyer, and as a former political detainee during the Martial Law years, one of the founding members of SELDA.
A scholar during his college days at the University of the Philippines, Atty. Candazo was active in the struggle against the Marcos regime which cost him his freedom many times during the Martial Law years.
In 1985, he was one of the former political detainees who took the initiative of founding SELDA. The first SELDA Board was composed of Fidel Agcaoili, Julieta de Lima-Sison, Joaquin “Don Chino” Roces, Jake Almeda Lopez, Francisco Rodrigo, Jose Mari Velez, Benjamin Guingona, Danilo Vizmanos and Romeo Candazo.
As one of the major organizations that gathered the thousands of victims during Martial Law, SELDA was able to file the historic class suit against the Marcoses in 1986. The stories both of suffering and of courage of Atty. Candazo and other victims who came forward to let the world know of their experiences be known, are now the basis for the continuing struggle for recognition and reparation for Martial Law victims.
It is with deep regret that we in SELDA learned of his death without him witnessing the implementation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Atty. Candazo may have served well as one of the members of the Claims Board, the primary body to identify Martial Law victims who deserve recognition and reparation. If Pres. Aquino is not taking his own sweet time in implementing the law, Atty. Candazo should have seen the fruits of his struggle while he was still alive.
Most of the Martial Law victims are either ill or suffer old age, their health conditions worsened by the physical and emotional torture they experienced at the time of their imprisonment. Almost every month, we pay tribute to SELDA members and Martial Law victims, who were still able to attend meetings, joined lobby efforts in Congress, reached out to fellow political detainees and contemporaries, and marched the streets – all in the hope that they shall be recognized and be heeded upon by the current Aquino government. We shall not let their passing be in vain.
As we remember Atty. Candazo, Atty. Romeo Capulong, Bong Barsoles, Romeo Luneta, Maita Gomez, Rudy Lagoc, Manny Loste, Mike Biriña and all those who served the people and fought for justice, we demand the Aquino government to implement the law now, form the Claims Board now. There’s no other time but now. ###
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: