Marcos reparations

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, March 3, 2014


PNOY’S recent appointment of former police General Lina Castillo Sarmiento to chair the Human Rights Victims Claims Board established as a result of Republic Act 10368 dealing with victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime has attracted controversy.

Former Senator Joker Arroyo recently wrote an open letter to President Aquino quoting the Act which states that all Board members should have a “deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights violations during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.”

Arroyo’s argument is that human rights violations were perpetrated by certain members of the armed forces and the defunct Philippine Constabulary. Hence the appointment of a general from the uniformed services to preside over the adjudication of the claims of the human rights victims is inappropriate.

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Some of the worst human rights abuses occurred near the beginning of martial law in September 1972 when General Sarmiento was only 15. So perhaps we should “give her a chance” as she asks us to do.

The effectiveness of implementing R.A. 10368 will be determined by the efficacy of collecting and evaluating information from claimants. The mechanism by which potential claimants can submit their case should be straightforward and free from red tape.

Any deficiencies in the claims process will be highly publicized by the media. We believe this will help to make the process reasonably equitable.

The available reparations fund is P10 billion.

There is a points system which assists the determination of the reparations to be made.
Section 19 of R.A. 10368 describes the points system as follows:

Victims who died or who disappeared and are still missing shall be given 10 points.

Victims who were tortured and/or sexually abused shall be given 6 to 9 points.

Victims who were detained shall be given 3 to 5 points.
Victims of human rights violations shall be given 1 to 2 points.

There will be difficulties in deciding who should benefit from victims who died, particularly when many of the deaths occurred over 40 years ago.

Once the information has been collected and processed the number of points can be calculated.

I hope the system will be to total the number of points and to use the P10 billion to be allocated according to this total.
So if the total number of points from valid claimants is 100,000, then each point would attract a payment of P100, 000 so as to ensure that the allocated P10 billion is fully disbursed.
A relatively small cash payout does not fully recompense for the suffering involved, but at least it shows that the abuses have not gone unrecognized.

It is recognition that the Nation regrets the events of the martial law era.

***

On a different track, the claimants who are clients of Robert Swift, the American lawyer, have experienced difficulties associated with our substandard postal system.

The history of these claimants is mixed. Swift’s 9,539 clients filed a class suit against the Marcos estate in 1986. This suit prospered and won a $2 billion judgment from a Hawaii federal court jury in 1995, but disputes over the Marcos property prevented the victims from getting any money until February 2011, when a $10 million settlement was reached over land in Texas and Colorado bought from Marcos money.

A further $10 million came from another settlement from Alan Howard who bought Claude Monet’s “Waterlilies.”

The amount of $20 million has been won but logistical difficulties have caused a substantial amount to not yet find the rightful beneficiaries.
We hope the implementation of R.A. 10368 will not affect Swift’s clients who should be entitled to make claims from General Sarmiento’s committee as well as the many who were victimized during the Marcos era but who never became a client of Atty. Swift.

Joker Arroyo stated that Marcos victims have been “consigned to irrelevance by contemporary history’s tendency toward historical amnesia.” I beg to differ. The very existence of R.A. 10368 refutes Arroyo’s assertion.

The real proof will come when the panel headed by General Sarmiento will make and implement its evaluations. This is a situation where justice must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair.

***

‘The tumult and the shouting dies

The captains and the kings depart

Still stand Thine ancient Sacrifice,

A humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget-lest we forget!’

-Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936

‘Recessional’ (1897) Cf. 43:5

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 03, 2014.

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