By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Twenty-six years after the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, will the victims of martial law finally receive their long overdue indemnification?
House Bill 5990 or An Act Providing Compensation to Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Marcos Regime was approved this week on third reading by the House of Representatives. If enacted into law, victims of human rights violations during martial law will receive compensation amounting to P 10 billion ($243.9 million).
In 1995, after the Federal Court of Hawaii found Marcos guilty of human rights abuses, it awarded $2 billion compensatory damages for 9,539 victims of martial who filed the historic class suit against the late dictator. A law is needed to mandate the government to allot a portion of the funds that would be sequestered from the Marcos family to the victims because the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides that all sequestered assets from the Marcos family would be utilized for the implementation of land reform.
Trinidad Herrera-Ripuno, one of those who filed the class suit and a board member of Samahanngmga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) welcomed the passage of the bill on third reading. “Our lobby efforts at the House of Representatives are seeing its fruition today,” she said in a statement.
The approved bill on third reading will be transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence. After the bill is passed on third reading in the Senate, a conference committee will be constituted to reconcile any differences in the bills. After the committee approved its version, the bill will then be transmitted to the President for approval.
We are now up to another step for the enactment of the bill into law,” said Herrera who suffered torture and was detained during martial law. “Unfortunately, the Senate has yet to act on their version of the bill and we still have a long way to go, to lobby, remind, and push our Senators to respond in the same manner that Congress has done,” she said.
Selda urged the the Senate Committee on Human Rights chaired by Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero to expedite the passage of the Senate version of the bill. “Victims of martial law have waited long enough. We demand a more positive action from President Benigno Aquino III’s administration,” Herrera said.
Aquino’ father, Benigno Aquino Sr., was the most prominent political prisoner during the Marcos dictatorship.
In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan also called for the immediate passage of the bill in the Senate and the eventual enactment of the law. “This is important for the victims under Martial Law who, for more than two decades, have overcome the manipulations of the Marcoses to belie the occurrence of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and numerous human rights violations during that dark period in the country’s history,” the group said. Bulatlat.com