MANILA – When President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10368 on Feb. 25, 2013, thousands of victims were happy that the Philippine government finally recognized the state-perpetrated human rights abuses during the dark period of the Marcos dictatorship.
The law also provides for reparation for the victims and mandates the creation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board that would accept and process the applications for compensation. The source of reparation would be the P10 billion ($227 million) Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth transferred to the Philippine government by virtue of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court order dated Dec. 10, 1997.
According to the Claims Board, applications for reparation reached over 39,000 as of Nov. 5. An organization of martial law victims, the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), said many more have been not been able to file their applications due to several reasons. The Selda said the Claims Board asked for stringent requirements that the group deems as not necessary.
Mabel Roxas, who was detained and tortured during martial law, said she has lost interest to claim compensation. In an interview with this reporter, the petite 59-year-old woman lamented that the Claims Board did not accept the photocopy of the news clipping about the raid on March 18, 1973 where she was arrested. She was 17 years old when arrested by the police. For a month, she endured torture. The soldiers pointed a gun on her forehead and put bullets between her fingers and squeezed them.
Roxas said she has lost all her papers to floods. A friend of hers went to the National Library and found the news clipping which she presented to the Claims Board. “The Claims Board said they needed the original copy. I told them that the National Library would not release it.”
According to the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), an applicant shall submit one or more of the following:
a) NSO-issued or local death certificate;
b) Warrant of arrest, seizure orders (PDA, PCO, ASSO), mission order and other similar documents;
c) Certification by custodial government agencies on the fact of detention, carpeta, police blotter, NBI files, release papers and other similar documents;
d) Doctor’s affidavit, medico-legal, autopsy or pathology certificate or report, and other similar documents;
e) Declassified documents from the Department of National Defense and other government agencies;
f) Court records;
g) Original or duly certified lawyer’s records;
h) Photographs with affidavit of proper authentication;
i) Sworn statement of two (2) co-detainees or two (2) persons who have personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the HRV;
j) Secondary sources of information from reliable sources may be presented such as church/non-government organization report, books documenting HRVs, news clippings or other similar documents;
k) Other documents and evidence attesting the occurrence of the incident and violations or that may be required for the award of any reparation.
Roneo Clamor, Selda national coordinator, said the Claims Board is asking for more than two of these documents and made letter (i) as mandatory. “The process should have been summary but the Claims Board is putting the burden of proof on the victims. This has discouraged many of the victims to file their applications,” he said.
Another martial law victim, Teodoro Villafuerte, 62, said he underwent a rigorous process.
Villafuerte said the Claims Board asked him to prove that he was a victim. He was told to show news clippings and pictures of his arrest, which he does not have. “I told them I would call my comrades outside to prove that I was tortured. Maybe due to embarrassment, the man in the desk told me not to,” he said.
Villafuerte, a member of Kabataan Makabayan during martial law, was arrested in the 1970s while on his way home. He was beaten up by the police. The next day, he and his companions were brought to Fort Bonifacio. “They often hit my head on the wall. One time they hit me with a .45 caliber gun on my shoulder and it was really painful. Later on I got a lump and I had to undergo operation,” he said.
Wilfredo Baluyut, 63, was one of the 19 students and residents of Krus na Ligas in Quezon City who were arrested on Dec. 26, 1980. For six months, he was detained at Bicutan. He experienced being electrocuted and burnt with cigarettes.
Baluyut said the Claims Board asked for so many documents when he applied for compensation.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Selda chairwoman, said the Claims Board does not even have the list of the 9,539 petitioners who filed the class suit against the Marcos family before the Hawaii court in 1986.
Section 17 of the RA 10368 states that the claimants in the class suit shall be extended the conclusive presumption that they are victims of human rights violations.
Enriquez said the Selda, as the organization that filed the class suit, has a list of the petitioners but the Claims Board opted to get the “official” list from Judge Manuel Real of the district court of Hawaii.
Clamor said the Claims Board could not accommodate all the victims seeking reparation.
Clamor said thousands flocked to the Claims Board but the board could only accept an average of 200 to 250 applicants per day. He said some of the applicants traveled from far-flung areas only to go home frustrated.
Clamor said members of the Claims Board, in a dialogue with Selda last September, admitted they lack personnel, equipment and resources and budget.
Enriquez said the Claims Board should fast track the process and beef up its personnel and operations to accommodate thousands of applicants.
The application period for claims for recognition and reparation has been extended for six months.
Roxas said, “We had lobbied for a law that would compensate us; we worked and fought for it. I don’t think it (the claim) should be that painstaking for the victims.”
Villafuerte said the government should pay attention to the claimants as they are getting older. “Some of our colleagues have died without even getting reparation,” he said. (bulatlat.com)