Lira Dalangin-Fernandez | InterAksyon.com
February 25, 2013
MANILA, Philippines — Hailing the signing into law of the compensation act for human rights victims during the Martial Law years, victims and lawmakers on Monday said that people should remain vigilant so it would never happen again.
Simultaneous with the 27th anniversary of EDSA People Power revolution, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act as Republic Act 10368, ending the 40-year wait of the victims for recognition and compensation.
“This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the state’s recognition of their suffering under Martial Law. Many years after the Hawaii court recognized us, now it’s our own government who did the same,” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said in a statement.
Colmenares, tortured and imprisoned for four years during the Marcos dictatorsip, said “the overall message of this recognition is that Martial Law must never happen.”
In a separate statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the newly-signed law completes the “trilogy of legislative human rights measures” that he principally authored.
Both Lagman and Colmenares are principal authors of the new law.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, another principal author of the measure, said not one of the victims thought of being compensated at the time they were fighting dictatorship from 1972 until February 1986, adding that it was “purely an act of patriotism.”
He added: “Now that the victims are being recognized for their sufferings, it is time to declare never again to Martial Law. If we have ‘tuwid na daan’ under PNoy (Aquino), we should also have ‘tuwid na kasaysayan’ in order to prevent a wrong presentation of history,” Tanada said.
Lagman earlier authored the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 or Republic Act 9745 and the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10353.
The first compensation act was filed by Lagman as House Bill 2426 during the first regular session of the 10th Congress in August 1995 or almost 18 years ago.
SELDA: victory for victims
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), which led the filing of the historic class suit by the martial law victims against Ferdinand E. Marcos in a Hawaii court, said the signing of the law was a victory for the victims.
“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 group said in a statement.
The law gives reparation and recognition to countless victims of human rights violations during the martial law regime from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. Violations covered are summary executions, enforced disappearances, deadly torture and other atrocious violations of human rights and civil liberties.
The claimants and direct plaintiffs in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii who secured a decision in their favor against the estate of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and the martyrs and victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation are conclusively presumed as human-rights violations victims.
Other victims who will be filing their claims for the first time are required to submit their claims together with detailed sworn affidavits narrating the circumstances of the violations within six months from the effectivity of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Act.
A fund of P10 billion, plus accrued interests, is appropriated for the claimants’ reparation which is part of the amount transferred by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to the Philippine Government and which the Philippine Supreme Court forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines as Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth.
Some P500 million, which is part of the accrued interest, will finance the establishment of a museum, library and repository of memorabilia for the victims.
A Human Rights Violations Victims Claims Board (HRVVCB) will be set up to validate the amounts to be granted to the claimants in accordance with the severity of the injuries and damage they have sustained, based on a points system.
The law also mandates the teaching, from the elementary to the tertiary levels, of martial law with its attendant atrocities as well as the life stories and heroism of human rights violation victims.
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.