Stop the killings, stop the lies!

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

Last September, at the onset of the “ber” months which usually evoke happy thoughts of Christmas, I wrote here about the dark prospects shadowing the yearend instead – intensifying militarization, political repression, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights violations.

Twin calls were then raised by human rights defenders and HR-violation victims: “Never again to martial law!” (recalling Ferdinand Marcos’ September 21, 1972 edict) and “Stop the killings!” (with 279 recorded extrajudicial killings – now 303 – under P-Noy’s watch).

On Nov. 30, with the fumes of the presidential contest in the May 2016 elections polluting the air, twin calls were raised: “Never again, never forget!” and “Stop the lies!”

The new calls were put forward by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, founded by former Sen. Jovito R. Salonga (now chairman emeritus), with Alfonso T. Yuchengco as chairman. The foundation has established, along with a museum-library in Quezon City, a Wall of Remembrance for martyrs/heroes (numbering 268, with new names added each year) who had fought the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986).

“Powerful attempts are recently being exerted by certain groups to rewrite Philippine history, confuse the young generation about the truth about the Marcos dictatorship, erase its horrors, abuses and deceptions and make it out as a ‘golden era’ in the country,” Bantayog points out.

The group seeks “to support and strengthen efforts that promote the hard-earned lessons of that historical period and hopefully see important issues from that period included in the national debate during the 2016 election campaign.”

Rightfully, it notes that “many of today’s social, political and economic problems have their roots in the Marcos dictatorship, including damaged institutions and corrupted values and ethical standards.” The perpetrators of the dictatorship’s crimes have not been punished.

Describing the dictatorship as “a period of terror, corruption and deception with no equal in Philippine history,” Bantayog says today’s youth must learn the truth about it and understand its lessons.

The foundation hopes to generate a “movement with a broad and national constituency,” to include martial-law victims and their families, human rights groups and agencies, veteran activists and present-day ones, professionals, the academe, progressive politicians, church people, in the arts and media, among others.

What of the call, “Stop the lies!”? It’s addressed to Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a vice-presidential aspirant. Asked in a television interview if he would apologize for the corruption and abuses of his father’s regime, Bongbong curtly replied, “What am I to say sorry about?”

Aghast, the Bantayog board of trustees wrote an open letter to him, titled “Time to stop the lies, senator.” Portions of the letter state:

“The extent of your parents’ crimes during the Marcos dictatorship is so extensive its accounting has yet to be completed… He had thousands jailed, abducted, tortured or killed. Many activists are still missing to this day. A law was enacted by Congress in 2013 offering reparation to these victims. As of the latest, 75,000 individuals have applied (and thousands more did not, or failed to file) for claims.

“It is time for honesty, Mr. Senator. You owe it to the country that let you go free unharmed when in February 1986 the Filipino people finally drove your family out [of Malacanang]… You owe it to the victims of your parents’ regime, but you also owe it to your own sons. How do you teach them the selflessness of true public service and the value of honesty and of righting of wrongs if you lack the courage to admit the truth?

“History will judge, you say? That is why you now must stop the lies – because precisely history, and the people you have aggrieved, will judge.”

As regards the 75,000 applicants for recognition and/or reparation under RA 10368, they are still waiting for justice.

Their huge number has overwhelmed the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, appointed by President Aquino in February 2014 (a year after the law’s enactment). The law gives the HRVCB two years – ending on May 12, 2016 – to determine the legitimate claimants (from possible fraudulent ones), recognize them, determine the amount of monetary compensation, and award the claims to each one. The board has processed only a few thousand claims.

To resolve the problem an amendatory bill (HR 6024), purportedly to extend the HRVCB’s term by at least one year, has been filed in the House by two Akbayan party-list representatives and a Quezon City congressman.

The bill could be helpful, except that it proposes other amendments that can raise the hackles of HRV victim-claimants. Consider these amendments:

– When the HRVCB members shall have served their full term (three years), they shall automatically be entitled for three years to lump-sum payment of their monthly salaries and allowances (to be taken from the operating budget, allocated from the P10 billion fund to compensate victims). And for the rest of their lives, they shall be paid annuity in monthly pensions (to be taken from the Commission on Human Rights annual budget). If a retired board member dies, his/her surviving spouse shall be entitled to the monthly pension throughout his/her life.

– After the HRVCB is dissolved, all of its other officers and personnel shall be entitled to retirement benefits too. They shall also be given priority in the hiring by the CHR or the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

It seems that the bill’s authors want to favor the HRVCB and its personnel with lifetime monetary benefits – far larger than the one-time compensation any HRV victim-claimant can hope to receive.

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Published in The Philippine Star
December 5, 2015

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