President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10368 on February 25 during the 27th anniversary of EDSA I uprising that toppled Marcos. But up to now, the Aquino government has not taken the first crucial step: forming the Claims Board.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Standing on the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Ruben Veluz, 67, asked in Filipino: “Is this the kind of treatment for those who are considered heroes?”
More than 40 years ago, Veluz, then a student activist at the Lyceum of the Philippines, frequented Mendiola for protest actions against the Vietnam war and against what they considered as the ills of Philippine society — imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism.
He was arrested thrice during martial law. His two younger brothers, also activists, were likewise incarcerated and heavily tortured.
On June 20, Veluz joined some 50 fellow martial law activists in a protest action demanding the implementation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Most of them are now senior citizens but in their youth, they fought the Marcos dictatorship.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairwoman of SELDA, an organization of former political prisoners, said,” Aquino scored ‘pogi points’ when he signed the law. Now is the time to implement it.”
Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10368 on February 25 during the 27th anniversary of EDSA I uprising that toppled Marcos. The law, the first of its kind in the world, provides $246 million in compensation for those who were persecuted by the dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Under the law, the President shall appoint nine members to the Victims’ Claims Board. The Claims Board will then draft the implementing rules and regulations of the law.
As early as March 12, SELDA, the group that initiated the class suit against Marcos, submitted its list of nominees for the Claims Board. Up until today, the group said it has not received any word from Malacañang.
“Elections have already been finished and still the President sits on the law without appointing anybody to form the Claims Board,” Enriquez said.
In a letter sent to President Benigno Aquino III, SELDA called on Aquino to implement the law.
“Victims all over the country who are interested in being recognized as martial law victims are already asking when and if the government is really sincere in its declaration to recognize martial law victims,” Enriquez said.
SELDA is also doubtful that the long delay in the formation of the Claims Board might result in the exclusion of SELDA nominees.
The law provides for the requirements of the members of the Claims Board as: (1) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; (2) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; and, (3) must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.
Nominated by SELDA are Enriquez, Bonifacio Ilagan, Dr. Edelina de la Paz, lawyers Dominador Lagare, Marcos Risonar and Kit Enriquez. SELDA also expressed support for the nomination of Prof. Judy Taguiwalo and former GWP Partylist Rep. Liza Maza, by Tanggol Bayi, an organization of women human rights defenders.
“SELDA has been the organization that consistently and for the longest time has carried on the struggle for recognizing the martial law victims’ heroism and sacrifices to fight for the nation’s democracy and human rights which serve as inspiration to the youth. SELDA is the organization of the majority of the victims and has organized and rallied the victims to take part in making the human rights violators accountable for their crimes. Majority of the victims recognize SELDA as the one carrying on their interests and therefore majority of them are known by SELDA. It also has a nationwide network so that it can reach the victims more than any other organization, anywhere in the country,” the letter stated.
For her part, Nitz Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) who was also imprisoned during martial law said in Filipino, “This fight is not only for the elderly. This is for the future of our nation.”
Enriquez said that more than the monetary compensation, recognizing the contributions of those who fought martial law is more important.