Human rights victims receive compensation-A A +A
Monday, February 28, 2011
AS THE first batch of Marcos human rights violation victims receive their compensation on Monday, the Aquino administration should continue to hold the guilty accountable for their crimes, a House leader said.
"As an element of transitional justice, reparation must be complemented by seeking the truth behind the abominable human rights violations, prosecuting and holding to account the perpetrators and reforming institutions to guarantee non-repetition. These are urgent challenges that the Aquino administration must forthwith confront," Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said in a statement.
Lagman's brother, Hermon, a militant activist, labor lawyer, and human rights defender, was a victim of enforced disappearance during the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos.
Another brother, Filemon "Popoy," a labor leader who also fought the dictatorship, was assassinated in February 2001 supposedly under the orders of leftist political rivals.
"Historical myopia, political amnesia, or sheer paranoia of anything perceived to be left-leaning or influenced can never hide the truth that it was they, as vigilant activists together with allied concerned citizens, who steadfastly and irreversibly paved the road to Edsa with their sweat and blood; that it is they who should be honored and not the opportunist self-proclaimed leaders who are actually mere beneficiaries of the People Power uprising," Lagman added.
The first 12 claimants received $1,000 each as part of the initial compensation from litigation against the Marcoses in the United States. They were awarded with the compensation on Monday at the Club Filipino in San Juan.
The awarding of compensation will continue at the Commission on Human Rights office from March 1 to 6 for claimants in the National Capital Region.
Claimants in the provinces may get their compensation in 15 satellite locations nationwide.
More than 7,500 are eligible claimants will receive checks amounting to at least P43,000.
"One thousand US dollars may be minuscule relative to the totality of the mind-boggling Marcos ill-gotten wealth, but the compensation of such amount to each Marcos human rights victim is a significant step toward transitional justice," said Lagman.
Lagman, however, said that no monetary amount can ever compensate for the sacrifices of the human rights victims during the Marcos era.
Several bills providing compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime are also pending before the House Committee on Human Rights.
Human rights victims flustered
Meanwhile, victims of human rights violations during Martial Law remain flustered that the return and eventual political ascent of the Marcoses 25 years after they were kicked out was a slap on their faces.
Though he is leaving it to the public to judge the Marcoses, Retired Air Force colonel Nilo Olegario Sr. said he still could not believe that they were now back in the saddle after the 1986 people power uprising that ousted them from power.
"I feel bad that they have returned to power considering what they have done to us and the countless victims of human rights violation during that period but what can I do this is a free country," Olegario said in an interview during Monday's initial distribution of compensation to 12 victims of Martial Law at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.
Olegario accepted the initial $1,000 compensation in behalf of his son, Nilo Jr., who disappeared before Christmas of 1985.
He also dismissed the statement of Senator Ferdinand "Bong-Bong" Marcos Jr. that his father would have turned the country into Singapore if he was not toppled from power.
"He is entitled to his own convoluted opinion but I will leave it to the public to judge them," he added.
Aside from Bong-Bong, his mother, former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos currently serves as representative of Ilocos Norte, while his sister, Maria Imelda "Imee" Marcos is the provincial governor.
Ferdinand Marcos ruled the country for 21 years, from 1965 to 1986.
He served his first term as president from 1965 to 1969, then won another term from 1969 to 1973.
In 1972, he imposed Martial Law, curtailing democratic rights and later tailored the 1973 Constitution to suit his authoritarian rule.
Although he formally lifted martial law in 1981, Marcos kept tight control until he was ousted in a bloodless revolt in 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
Search for son continues
Recounting his son's disappearance, Olegario said he was in the United States at the time, having retired from the military service when he got the fateful call from his family informing him of what happened.
A member of the August 21 Movement (Atom) founded by former Senator Agapito "Butch" Aquino, the brother of the assassinated opposition icon Ninoy Aquino, the younger Olegario was just 27 years old when he disappeared.
He was the third child out of five children.
Twenty-five years later, Olegario said his family has yet to give up the search for his son despite the pain and difficulty.
"I would gladly exchange this money for my son. Up to now, we still feel the pain, especially my wife," Olegario said, adding the family still holds celebrations every February 14, his son's birthday.
Another Martial Law victim, Fe Mangahas, was teary-eyed as she recounted the torture she endured at the hands of the security forces.
A professor at the far Eastern University (FEU) at the time, Mangahas said she suffered a miscarriage of her first baby as a result of her torture while in detention.
The amount the victims received on Monday symbolized the suffering she and others like her endured during the Martial Law years as well as the long and difficult victory against the Marcos estate.
"Tinatanggap ko ito hindi lamang para sa akin kundi para rin sa lahat ng mga guro at estudyante na nagbuwis ng buhay noong panahon ng Martial Law (I am accepting this in the name of teachers and students who were killed during Martial Law)," she said.
Veteran film director Joel Lamangan said the Marcoses should be prosecuted for their crimes, adding they would continue the fight for justice.
"This is a victory but the fight has to go on. Yes, I want the Marcoses to be prosecuted but the problem is the justice system here in the country is defective," Lamangan said.
When he was a 17-year-old student activist, he was jailed and tortured during his nearly two years in detention.
Cecilia Lagman, mother of Albay Representative Edcel, accepted the compensation on behalf of his disappeared son, lawyer Hermon Lagman.
In a statement, the Lagman family, which includes Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, said the court-ordered compensation is a "reminder that the Marcos human rights violations victims are genuine patriots and nationalists who courageously sustained the struggle for freedom and democracy during the dark years of the dictatorship."
Settle with human rights victims
For his part, the victim's lead counsel, American Robert Swift not only challenged Aquino to do the same but for the Marcoses to settle with the victims.
"I call on Senator Marcos to effect a negotiated settlement with the victims if he is really want to follow the footstep of his father," he said, apparently referring to speculation that the former will make a run for the presidency in 2016.
He said the victims have suffered enough, adding the government should exert all efforts to spare them further pain.
"To President Aquino, 25 years is long enough for a negotiated settlement," he said.
Besides Olegario, Mangahas, Lamangan and Lagman, the other initial recipients of the compensation were Antonio Lacaba in behalf of Emmanuel Lacaba, Beatriz De Vera, Edward Gerlock, Hilda Narciso, Lutgardo Barbo, Meinrado Paredes, Priscilla Mijares, and Ruben Resus.
They constituted the initial batch of the 7,526 claimants who were granted the indemnification of $7.5 million out of the 9,539 victims that joined the class action suit against Marcos and his family.
The number of claimants has been cut due to eligibility questions, prompting a group belonging to the class action suit -- the Samahan ng Ex-Detainess Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) -- to dispute the de-listing.
Fr. Dionito Cabillas, Selda secretary general, said Domingo and Swift should explain the basis of the de-listing, adding that many of those removed from the list of claimants have transferred residence, and, thus were unable to receive the second notice from the court sent in 1999.
The first notice was issued in 1993.
The landmark decision by the US federal court in 1995 found the Marcos estate liable for torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances of about 10,000 people and awarded the victims a total of $2 billion in damages.
According to Swift, the litigation to collect the 1995 judgment continues, so there could be additional distributions in the future.
Rod Domingo, the Filipino co-counsel of Swift said they will set up 16 processing centers nationwide in collaboration with the CHR to accommodate the victims.
Claimants from Metro Manila must appear in person at the CHR office in Quezon City, and distribution will last only until March 7, with claimants assigned a single day for processing their claims based on their last names.
Domingo said claimants who fail to come on their "designated date" may come on the afternoon of March 7.
He also asked them to bring the original notice they received, and at least two valid identification, such as passport, voter's ID, driver's license, and/or NBI clearance.
A special power of attorney issued to a relative by the claimant will not be honored and that relatives must present a death certificate in case the claimant is already deceased. (Kathrina Alvarez/AH/Sunnex)