Recently, there were two positive developments in the Filipino people’s quest for justice: the victims of the Marcos dictatorship finally got what is due them and the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is finally being heard.
By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Two recent developments are positive steps toward the attainment of justice: the distribution of compensation funds for victims of martial law and the start of impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
After years of waiting, victims of the Marcos dictatorship finally got what is due them, albeit partially. When the victims of martial law, through their organization the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), filed the class action suit against deposed dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986, their objective was to run after Marcos and make sure that he did not elude justice when the Marcoses were spirited to Hawaii. And a class suit was the only legal redress available if the victims were to file the case in Hawaii. After waiting for nine years, in 1995, the victims finally got what they fought for: the Federal District Court of Hawaii found Marcos guilty of committing grave human-rights violations and awarded the victims $2 billion in compensatory damages. It was then already a victory for the victims of human-rights violations as well as for the Filipino people. But there was still the question of retribution. Without the Marcoses actually being made to pay, they could continue denying that they committed human-rights violations and they have not yet received any punishment for the crimes they committed against the Filipino people.
It took another 16 years before any compensation was awarded to the victims. And the problem is that not only is the amount too meager when divided among the victims, $10 million is still too small to make the Marcos family feel the retribution that they deserve. Added to this is the fact that 2,000 victims were delisted; it’s as if the violations committed against them never took place. The problem is not only that they could have also benefitted from the compensation awarded, worse, their delisting denied them of the recognition that they too were victims and had sacrificed in the fight against the dictatorship.
While the awarding of the compensation is symbolic and historical and that the victims more than deserve the indemnification they received – plus the fact that the victims could really use any amount of money during these hard times – this is just a step toward attaining justice. To stop now would be an insult to the victims and a mere slap on the wrist for the Marcoses. To stop running after the Marcoses now would constitute an injustice to the victims.
The other positive development in the Filipino people’s quest for justice is the start of the House Justice Committee hearings on the impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. After being stalled by the Supreme Court, the impeachment case is finally being heard. Deputy Speaker Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Bayan Muna Representatives Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares are confident that the impeachment case against Gutierrez is strong.
Gutierrez is a vital cog in the efforts of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to shield herself and her family from corruption cases that could be filed against her. For six years, Gutierrez has served her friend and benefactor well. She had quickly cleared the Arroyo family from any involvement in the corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo administration such as the National Broadband Network deal with ZTE of China, and had purposely delayed action on other cases. Recently, the Office of the Ombudsman almost got former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia freed with a mere slap on the wrist through a plea bargain agreement.
Now she is about to get what she deserves. After the complaint passes through the justice committee, it just has to pass the vote of the House plenary then the impeachment proceedings presided over by the Senate could take its course. But the quest for justice should not lose steam after the removal of Gutierrez. Rather, it should pave the way for the prosecution of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And the Aquino government should take the lead in this. After all, it has been exposing the irregularities of the previous Arroyo administration on every occasion. Otherwise, the whole process would just be a farce and an injustice to the Filipino people.