After 38 Years, Justice Remains Elusive for Martial Law Survivors

The bill was re-filed during 14th Congress but then House Speaker Prospero Nograles, a known ally of Arroyo, did not put the bill in the House agenda. “He said he would seek clearance first from Malacanang. But he did not get the Palace’s clearance eventually the bill was once again put on hold,” said Ocampo.

“This constant blocking of the bill only shows two things: one, Arroyo was protecting the Marcoses and two, because the money that should be used for the compensation of the victims were already used by Arroyo in 2004 through the fertilizer fund scam,” Ocampo said.

In 2004, Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante was accused of diverting P728 million ($16 million) in fertilizer funds for Arroyo’s presidential campaign. Part of it is for the compensation of the victims of human-rights abuses during martial law.

Caloy Salvador, a torture victim during martial law, now heads the organizational department of the First Quarter Storm Movement (FQSM). (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil /

“The past governments should have done something for the victims of human-rights abuses during martial law,” said Ocampo. “This should have been done way back since the late Cory Aquino’s term. Aside from the release of all political prisoners, her government did not do anything to give justice to the victims of human-rights abuses,” Ocampo added.

Ocampo noted that even the filing of charges against the Marcoses in the United States for human-rights violations was an initiative of the victims and their relatives. The then Aquino government did not prosecute the Marcoses.

Now in the 15th Congress, the progressive bloc led by Bayan Muna re-filed House Bill 1693 or an Act Mandating Compensation to Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Marcos Dictatorship from 1972 to 1986 and Appropriating Funds Therefore. According to Bayan Muna, the bill was already on its first reading in the committee last July 28. Asked by Bulatlat if Ocampo sees any prospects that the compensation bill will be passed this time, he replied: “Let’s see. It always depends on the position of the president.”

Ocampo said the present administration must hasten the passage of the bill and certify it as urgent.

Colmenares added, “If the majority in the House and the President will support the bill, then definitely it will be passed. It’s just worrisome that the President has no position on the issue of human rights. The compensation bill is the only chance that we can make the Marcoses account for their crimes against the people.”

Not Expecting Too Much

“Personally, I’m not expecting to receive any compensation because of my service to the people. If the compensation bill will be passed then why not (get it). But now that the Marcoses are back, I don’t expect anything,” Ed Tablan, vice chairman of the FQSM and one of the complainants to the class suit said.

Martial law survivors, and now members of FQSM, taking a break after marching from Bustillos to Mendiola Bridge during the 38th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil /

“I’ve lost interest in that compensation. I did not join the struggle for national democracy in exchange for money,” Salvador said. He was detained in 1974 together with his wife and nine-month-old baby.

“We are victims of human-rights abuses. we have dedicated our lives to fight for social justice during the Marcos dictatorship. We did not do anything wrong and yet, they make it appear that we are after the money. It’s very insulting,” Salvador said.

Still, both Tablan and Salvador believe that the families of those who were killed or went missing and those who are still alive but are now sick deserve to get their compensation.

For Tablan, there is nothing much to expect under the present administration. “Our government is led by the ruling elite who only serve the interest of landlords and capitalists.”

Almost four decades have passed but for victims like Ocampo, Tablan and Salvador, justice has never been served. “Since the Marcos dictatorship up to now, the different administrations have only paid lip service to giving justice to victims of human-rights violations. The Marcoses who should be prosecuted are now back in power that’s why up to now, we are still part of the struggle because the government still does not act on the people’s demands,” Salvador said. (

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