“The long and slow process is a violation of the law.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — After ten months of not receiving anything from the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), martial law victims called on President Rodrigo Duterte to replace the members of the board.
Some 50 members of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) held a protest action at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, at around 10 a.m., today, Nov. 5.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, criticized the nine-member HRVCB for its “inefficiency.” After ten months since it was created, Enriquez said the Board was only able to process 23 percent of the more than 75,000 total applications for compensation.
The creation of the HRVCB is mandated by Republic Act 10368, also called as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The HRVCB is tasked to accept and process the applications for compensation. The source of reparation would be the P10 billion ($227 million) Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth transferred to the Philippine government by virtue of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court order dated Dec. 10, 1997.
SELDA sought for a dialogue with Board Chairperson Lina Sarmiento, a retired police director, on October 24. Enriquez said Sarmiento reasoned out that the Board did not expect such volume of applications and that all applications are undergoing “rigorous” validation.
Enriquez said such “rigorous” process is not necessary especially for the 9,539 petitioners who filed the class suit against the Marcos family before the Hawaii court in 1986.
SELDA is the organization that initiated the class action suit against former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986, as soon as he was booted out of power. In 1995, the Federal Court of Hawaii found Marcos guilty of grave human-rights violations and awarded $2 billion in compensatory damages to the victims. In 1998, the Swiss government transferred $640 million to the Philippine government. The Philippine Supreme Court ordered its transfer to the national treasury in 2003.
Section 17 of the RA 10368 states that the claimants in the class suit shall be extended the conclusive presumption that they are victims of human rights violations.
“The long and slow process is a violation of the law,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez lamented that many of their colleagues at SELDA died without getting compensation and recognition. “What makes it worse is that while martial law victims have been painstakingly waiting, the members of the Board are paid P31,000 per month for sitting on their jobs,” Enriquez told Bulatlat in an interview.
All expenses of the HRVCB are taken from the P10-billion compensation fund. The law states that the HRVCB budget should not exceed P50 million per year.
SELDA also reiterated its opposition to the proposed internment of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The status quo ante order on the Marcos burial, which was issued by the Supreme Court, is set to expire November 8. SELDA is one of the petitioners questioning the Constitutionality of the plan to bury Marcos at the LNMB.