Human Rights claims mobbed

WITH just one day left for accepting applications for claims for human right violations under the Marcos Regime, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) is barely midway as those manning the applications table estimate more than a thousand to file.

In the crowd of people waiting to be served outside the Davao City Recreation Center or Almendras Gym were people as old as in their 80s, considering that the Marcos Regime ended in 1986.

The claims board came to accept the application of those rights victims or relatives of the victims during the martial law, which was scheduled August 4 and 5 at the Davao City Recreation Center, and August 6 at the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Building.

Lawyer Arcadio DC. Benitez Jr. of the HRVCB, in an interview with Sun.Star Davao Tuesday, said they were able to accept the applications of a total of 362 claimants last Monday, many of them having traveled from other parts of Mindanao.

From interviews with those in line, some were among those not accommodated in an earlier remote intake operation held in Cagayan de Oro City last July 31 to August 1.

The last remote operation in Mindanao for the first round will be at the Centro Latino Paseo del Mar Complex in Zamboanga City on August 18-20 for this round.

Benitez said that the claims board is scheduling another set of intake operations for September and October.

"Ang target talaga namin per day is at least 300 claimants. So far, maayos naman ang naging registration kaya nag-exceed kami sa 300 claimants. We're hoping na sana yun pa rin or mas maraming maka-register today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), mas maganda kung matapos namin lahat," Benitez said.

"Pipilitin namin na matapos lahat bukas (Wednesday). Anyway, marami pa naman intake operations, our next will be at Tagum City. Kahapon nag schedule na ang claims board ng mga intake operation ngayong September and October for the second round. Definitely all over the Philippines," Benitez said.

Victim twice over

Crispin Tabag, 80 years old claimant and a resident of Compostela Valley, who was standing at the gate of the Davao City Recreation Center, said he is hoping to receive the compensation before he dies.

"I am too old, but I am still hoping to have that compensation for my family," Tabag said in the vernacular. He said he was accused as a member of the New People’s Army during the Martial Law years and was subjected to torture and illegal detention.

Like everyone else, Tabag had to suffer the heat of the sun outside the gym.

There is no seat made available.

Brother Karl Gaspa, a Redemptorist brother and known teacher, had his own tale to tell of the sufferings they had to go through just to file their claims last Monday, in his essay written for Mindanews entitled “Victimizing the victims twice over”.

“Hundreds of them had arrived at the gym an hour before proceedings would start at 8 a.m. When I arrived there are at 7:35 a.m., I had no choice but to take my place at the tail-end of one of the pila lined up at the entrance to the gym. I noticed that one line had Moro men and women as could be determined by their attire; one surmised they had come from Cotabato. By 8:00 a.m. there were more than a thousand who jampacked the grounds of the Almendras gym and more were arriving, including those who rode the mini-bus of the Municipal Government of Matan-ao,” he wrote.

“One noticed that there were tables at the entrance of the gym and by 8:00 a.m. there were a few men and women who sat on the chairs. One surmised they were the CHR people who would check the documents that we were supposed to prepare and be submitted on this day that included a form where we were supposed to give information about ourselves, especially as to how our HRs were violated. But no one was giving orders to the crowd what to do. There were no notices placed on strategic walls that we could read to give us an idea what was to be done, as to what procedures to follow. All we could do then was to find our place in the pila that became longer as more people arrived,” he added.

The lines became unruly as there were no barriers or guides and tempers heated up as the sun scorched them.

In line were people with different stories of sufferings under the Martial Law.

"Dili basta-basta among kaagi sa una. Dili ka basta-basta makagawas sa imong balay kay pasanginlan kag NPA dayon bisan dili. Akong igsuon si Orlando, 18-years-old siya tong gipatay siya tungod na pagkamalan lang siya na rebelde (It wasn’t easy then. You can’t just go out of your house lest be accused of being an NPA. My brother Orlando was 18 years old at that time when he was killed all because he was mistaken to be a rebel)," said Armando Venturillo, 45, a resident of Panacan in Davao City.

Melanie Noe, 34, who came all the way from Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur, recalled that she was 12 years old at that time and that the girls in their community were not allowed to wear their hair long.

"Once you have long hair, you will be forced to cut it short or else you will be punished by the 54th Infantry Battalion," she recalled.

"Ako bana usa sa mga gipatay tungod lang sa intriga na rebelde siya. Kahinumdom pa ko na giadto mi sa balay alas sais sa gabii niadtong 1985 unya gipatay siya bisan wala siya’y sala. Lain ang pamaagi sa unang panahon, puro kasakit among naagian (My husband was one of those killed just because of rumors that he was a rebel. I can remember that night in 1985, it was 6 p.m., when he was killed for no reason. There was tyranny, we all suffered)," said Caridad Hinay, 56, a resident of New Corella town in Davao del Norte.

"Kaniadto sa martial law bisan inosente ka, prisuhon ka susama nako na igo lang nagalakaw sa dan. Ako usa sa mga naging biktima sa kasakit kaniadto, gi-priso na gani ka, wala pa gyud ka'y kaon (During martial law, even if you are innocent, you will be jailed. I was just walking when I was arrested. I am among the victims of abuse before. I was imprisoned and not allowed to eat)," said Andres Alon, 72, of Malalag in Davao del Sur, who was standing under a tree, waiting for his name to be called.

Requirement for claims

Benitez said it is important that the claimants will bring the following requirements (if you’re the victim): original copy of the sworn statement/s of the victim and the witness, which is notarized by a lawyer; two valid identification (ID) cards – original and Xerox copy; and any related credentials like custodial papers.
"Kung nakulong ka sa panahon ni Marcos, you have to bring a release paper or custodial papers na mag papatunay dun sa sinasabi mo. Mas mabuti kung naaalala mo lahat, pangalan nung mga sundalo, saan at kailan nangyari ang insidente," Benitez said.

Benitez said the martial law victims should personally file their claim with the HRVCB while for those who were killed, died or incapacitated can send their “legal heir or authorized representative” to file for them.

"If you're representative of the original claimant, same requirements applies kaya lang may karagdagan. Halimabawa namatay na pala ang original claimant, isa sa mga dadalhin ng representative ay yung death certificate. Kung may sakit, medical certificate… the representative must also bring valid IDs," he added.

Benitez said IDs must be issued by the government, such as Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Philhealth, driver's license, passport, senior citizen's ID, Commission on Elections (Comelec) ID, and an original copy of birth certificate.

He also said that those who are conclusively presumed as human rights violations victims by the law can also submit their applications within six months–from May 12 to November 10, 2014 or else it would not be accepted at all.

Database for victims

The HRVCB has its database system ready to ensure that the documents will be systemically filed, cases raffled to different divisions of the claims board for mediation and rejection of any spurious, fraudulent, and fictitious claims, Benitez said.

Benitez added that the claims board has been tasked to determine monetary reparations for the victims within 2 – years based on the Republic Act 10368 or An Act Providing For Reparation And Recognition Of Victims of Human Rights Violations During The Marcos Regime.

Any claimant found to have filed a falsified claim after due hearing shall be penalized and be referred to the appropriate office for prosecution. A penalty of 8 to 10 years imprisonment including disqualification from public office and employment and other penalty will be imposed to a person convicted for claim.

President Benigno Aquino III signed the "Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013” last February 2013, organizing a group that will asses and investigate on who to get compensations from the government due to torture or any other violence during the Marcos regime.

The government has allotted P10 billion for the victims. Benitez, however, said he has no idea how much will be given to each victims. He said: “It will depend on the degree of violation committed against them by the perpetrators. By points kasi yan, one is the lowest and 10 is the highest.”

Being killed unjustly during Martial Law earns ten points.

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