By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The fight for justice through reparation and recognition is not yet over for the victims of martial law of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
On Aug. 11, members of Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), a group of former political detainees during the administration of Marcos Sr., showed their support to a bill filed by the Makabayan bloc entitled New Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2022 or House Bill 3505.
According to the progressive lawmakers, many victims of human rights violations during martial law were not able to file claims under the Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
Under the RA 10368, more than 75,000 applicants filed their claims, but only 11,103 were approved and duly recognized by the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) until the board became functus officio or expired on May 12, 2018. The HRVCB was able to completely resolve the 6,737 appeals as of May 6, 2018, the bill’s explanatory note read.
For Danilo dela Fuente, vice chairperson of SELDA, it is unacceptable that thousands of victims were left unrecognized and uncompensated despite the glaring evidence.
“The government’s delays and neglect further aggravates the pain and suffering brought by the atrocities that we endured during Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s bloody regime. This is highly unacceptable,” dela Fuente said in a statement.
The HB 3505 seeks to continue the processing of claims for recognition and reparation by victims of human rights violations during martial law and the reconstitution of the Board to process their claims.
“With the HRVCB officially functus officio, there is a growing clamor among many martial law human rights violations victims and relatives and human rights groups for a new law that will continue the recognition and reparation as mandated by RA 10368,” the explanatory note of the HB 3505 reads.
The Makabayan bloc said that the amount of P10 billion ($179 million) sourced from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses which will be remitted by the Presidential Commission on Good Government to the Bureau of Treasury will be used to fund the reparations and to finance all claims.
Difficulty of claimants
They said that many of the claimants were disqualified or denied on the basis of technicality such as failure to promptly present evidence or testimony or submit duly notarized affidavits; failure to reply or understand notices, rules and regulations, deadlines of submission; and other problems encountered by ordinary people not familiar with the legal procedures.
“Many of them never had a due process chance to even file an appeal from the decision denying their claim outright,” Makabayan said.
The progressive lawmakers said that RA 10368 “should have considered the state of the victims and the difficulty they will encounter if the law is not liberalized to provide them with the best opportunity to process their claims without compromising the integrity of the process.”
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Edith Castro, a Selda member from Tarlac whose reparation application was denied, lamented, “We already suffered enough as victims of human rights violations during martial law. We have been carrying the pain and trauma for almost half a century now. Many of us already died without experiencing any sort of justice or recognition. To suffer the difficulties in complying with the requirements of the law only to be denied is violation twice over.”
Amnesty International has documented 3,257 victims of extrajudicial killings, 35,000 victims of torture, 77 forcibly disappeared, and 70,000 incarcerations during Marcos Sr.’s martial law.
The Makabayan bloc said more and more relatives of the victims of human rights violations during martial law have brought up their case on what they call an unjust denial of their claims for reparation.
Included among the claims denied by the HRVCB were those of those who filed the the Hawaii class suit.
Citing reports from Selda, the Makabayan bloc said the claims for Hawaii case plaintiffs Mauricio Anugot, Casaria Anugot, Amrilyn Anugot, Eufecio Anugot, Welito Anugot, Teofilo Anugot of Balamban massacre, Raul Deri of Sorsogon and Reynaldo Garcia of Manila were denied despite the law’s provision on conclusive presumption. Also included among those denied was delisted Hawaii claimant Petra Venus Villegal of Quezon.
“For true unity to prosper, we must acknowledge the injustices wrought by martial law and provide the proper compensation to the victims. This is justice that they are owed, and must be delivered to them,” the group said.
“While no amount of monetary reparation will restore lost lives, properties, broken relations, and dreams of the human rights violations’ victims and their families, the reparation is important for them, as it forms part of the overall recognition of the reality of human rights violations and their immeasurable suffering of the people under Marcos regime,” they added.
Meanwhile, members of Selda said they know that this is an uphill battle with the present administration. Dela Fuente said that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself “was an active contributor in creating the horrors of martial law and has continued his father’s corrupt legacy by illegitimately forcing himself to Malacañang using the wealth stolen from the Filipino people, coupled with bribery and intimidation.”
“But we will not relent nor be intimidated,” he said.
“We are committed to push for the enactment of this law. We will not stop until all martial law victims are recognized and compensated. We also call on the Filipino people to stand with justice and truth, and echo our urgent calls,” dela Fuente said.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) decried political repression when they were barred from using the media room for a press conference on Aug. 11 at the House of Representatives. They were forced to hold the press conference in the hallway.