NO DOUBT, these violations of human rights inflicted on upland farming and indigenous communities happened when Ferdinand E. Marcos’s martial law proved that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Last Saturday, I joined my human rights colleague Edwin Marthine López and peace advocates Lourdes Tison and Anne Ledesma of Paghiliusa sa Paghidaet to Kabankalan to hold a dialog with various parish lay leaders.

Our conversation centered on the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 (R.A. 10368) and how the lay leaders can reach out to upland peasant human rights victims in the CHICKS areas who can avail of reparations.

Through R.A. 10368, the State declared that “consistent with the policy of the State to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims” of human rights violations during martial law and “restore the victims’ honor and dignity, (T)he State hereby acknowledges its moral and legal obligation to recognize and/or provide reparation to said victims and/or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations and damages they suffered under the Marcos regime.”

Just as we expected, many of those leaders know of farmers who knew of victims who were not in the list of 10,000 victims to the Marcos estate who are eligible to receive reparations.

One of the lay leaders was Marilyn N. Guiljon. Her father Segundino R. Nagum of Barangay Manlucahoc, Sipalay became an invalid when in 1974, he and four others were mauled by a unit of the Philippine Constabulary under a 1Lt. Richard B. Estrada.

Those who were killed, enforced disappeared, tortured, illegally detained, deprived of livelihood and properties by agents of the state and those acting in their behalf during martial law will be recognized and given reparations by the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Claims Board (HRVVCB).

The problem, however, is that save for the more prominent victims such as farmer church workers Vilma Riopay and Leonilo Artagame of Barangay Magballo, Kabankalan, many have no other supporting documents as basic as birth certificates. Many victims during the early days of the martial law regime had no documentation since there were no human rights monitors such as the Task Force Detainees back then.

R.A. 10368 came decades late when victims have already passed on or already in their sunset years. Many have relocated to other provinces or to the cities. This presents a daunting challenge to find them.

If the victims are confirmed, the Claims Board may take judicial notice motu proprio of individual persons who suffered human rights violations during martial law and grant such persons recognition as victims and their names will be enshrined in the Roll of Human Rights Violations Victims.

“New generation of Filipinos,” as an Inquirer pointed out, “has grown up ignorant of the excesses and brutalities of martial law; worse, quite a number of them now trumpet the idea that the Marcos era was an idyllic time of clean streets, glamorous edifices, a crime-free society and a prosperous economy.”

The editorial added, “Who can blame them? They see the Marcoses back in power—preening, unrepentant, unruffled by the occasional denunciation by this or that angry remnant of a bygone time—and what idea do they get?” Crimes do pay if done big time.

R.A. 10368 seeks to make sure that present and future generations of Filipinos will not suffer collective amnesia. The law adheres to transitional justice (TJ) when the Philippine State owns up to state crimes and install measure to ensure that violations will not recur. TJ measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

Thank you to Bishop Patrick Buzon and Social Action Director Fr. Eryl Agus who facilitated the dialog. Their help will ensure that Negrenses will attain collective remembrance of those dark days.