Real compensation-A A +A
Monday, February 25, 2013
THE landmark legislation that grants compensation to victims of human rights violations during martial law was signed into law yesterday, Monday, amid questions over the amounts involved and the procedures.
The compensation that will be due the human rights victims would never be enough to pay for their ordeal and loss but this acknowledgement of their role in the restoration of the country’s democracy is the least government can do.
Much more could be done, as pointed out by many, but it is the first time that the victims’ contributions have been written down in legislation.
President Benigno Aquino III signed the measure into law as the country marked the 27th anniversary of the Edsa 1 revolution that ended with the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos had placed the country under martial rule from 1972 to 1981 to, according to him, suppress civil strife and address a growing communist threat.
During Marcos’s rule, thousands of Filipinos-–students, activists, political leaders, educators, journalists, and priests and nuns-–were arrested, tortured, forcibly disappeared or killed.
It was after the People Power or the Edsa 1 revolution toppled the Marcos government on Feb. 25, 1986 when efforts were started to stop human rights violations and address institutional defects that allowed such terror to take place. The timing of Aquino’s signing of the law was not lost on those who witnessed the event.
Congress recently approved the US $246 million compensation for thousands of Filipinos who were persecuted under the Marcos government. Sen. Francis Escudero reportedly said such compensation law was the first of its kind in the world. The measure is also an admission by a government of its transgression to its people, he added.
Some P10 billion in funds from the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his family would be used to pay the victims.
The process will be handled by a board that will identify the claimants and the amounts to be given based on the gravity of the abuse suffered. The torture, harassment, rape or loss of life would be given points, with those cases getting more points receiving bigger amounts.
How those points can approximate what the human rights victims went though during those dark years would be the subject of more discussions to come. How do you assign points to the rape and torture of a female student activist? What should be given more weight-–a leg lost during a raid or a year of living in fear of suddenly being called to an “interview” inside a camp?
Rules on the computation of compensation have yet to be released but that is one area that the board would have to clarify. Some quarters also asked why only a few, or only the thousands who were named as human rights victims, would be compensated. What about the rest of the Filipinos who also suffered, maybe in different ways, under Marcos?
The details of the measure may not yet be known and the process might later turn out to be inadequate, but it is a victory for the country to recognize in law the struggles to keep Filipinos free.
No matter the amount of compensation, the real reparation will be in the institutional changes that would prevent another dictatorship from happening.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 26, 2013.