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“Martial law victim na, pinahihirapan pa”

Karapatan chairperson assails Human Rights Victims Claims Board

July 10, 2014

QUEZON CITY – Marie Hilao-Enriquez, a well-known martial law victim and one of the members in the Hawaii class suit filed against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, assailed the BS Aquino-appointed Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) in a press conference today.

“I accuse this government of sabotaging the implementation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368! When BS Aquino was quoted by media reports saying there are ‘those who would want to sabotage this law,’ he was definitely talking about us who vehemently objected his appointment of PNP Gen. Sarmiento as HRVCB head. Now, by his actions, it is the Aquino government that is sabotaging the law at the expense of martial law victims,” said Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan.

According to Enriquez, it appears now that BS Aquino does not want the law intended to recognize martial law victims and indemnify them for the sufferings they experienced. “Aquino defended Gen. Sarmiento’s appointment by saying she is mature and physically able. He is adamantly standing by his choice and is ramming it on our throats,” Enriquez said.

The HRVCB was formed in accordance with RA 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which shall process and accept applications of martial law victims.

“After two months of the law’s supposed implementation, problems are piling up. Aside from the former PNP general’s appointment as head of the claims board, the application process does not accommodate and even discourages martial law victims to file. Also, there is no categorical statement from the claims board that it shall recognize the 9,539 members of the class suit and the 24 direct action plaintiffs against Marcos in Hawaii,” Enriquez said.

She and fellow martial law victims personally monitored the application process carried out by the HRVCB in its main office in UP Diliman and its on-site regional centers, particularly in Iloilo on June 30 to July 1. “The claims board asks for too many requirements from the victims, many of which were outrightly unnecessary. Biktima na nga, pinahihirapan pa,” she said.

Victims described their “ordeal” in filing as “para kaming pinadadaan sa butas ng karayom.” Victims are asked to produce NSO-issued birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, original release papers among others.

“Those employed by the board as paralegals and lawyers forget that the incidents happened during martial law. Do the members of the claims board understand that it was martial law, when military power took over civilian institutions? How do you expect victims, many of whom are farmers and ordinary people, to acquire such documents? How could they ask for legal papers when they were massacred, abducted, arrested and tortured in huge numbers?” asked Enriquez.

According to the implementing rules and regulations of the law, only the legal heirs are required to present birth certificates for proof of relationship to the victim. Applicants who are direct victims only need to present an affidavit narrating the circumstances of the violation they experienced, and any government-issued ID and other supporting documents. “This is not what is happening in the submission of application,” according to Enriquez.

“The application process should accommodate the majority of those who have come forward to file. It is the claims board’s task to prove the veracity of their claims application. Denying application forms this early is contrary to the principle of recognizing victims,” explained Enriquez.

As a result, only a small percentage of the thousands who arrived from faraway provinces were accommodated in the regional on-site centers, which were set up for only two to three days in each location with the members of the Claims Board or their representatives staying in hotels or smug accommodations in the cities contrary to what they say as a caravan to go and know the victims better.

In Angeles City, Pampanga, the first of their regional on-site centers, the HRVCB only accepted 300 applicants in two days where a hundred more victims were not able to file applications. The HRVCB said they will return for pending applications in Central Luzon, with no exact date.

In Lucena City, only 93 individuals were processed out of more than six hundred victims who went to file their applications. In Iloilo City, only 268 victims were processed in two days out of more than 800 victims who arrived to file applications from the different parts of the Panay Island.

“Their actions lead us to ask, is it the interest of BS Aquino’s claims board to recognize victims, or another callous effort to disenfranchise them?” said Enriquez.

Meanwhile, Satur Ocampo, one of the delisted class action suit members, reiterated that the claims board should categorically state they shall automatically recognize as victims the 9,539 members of the Hawaii class suit.

The law states that it recognizes members of the historic class action suit filed against the late dictator Marcos, but does not mention the number of victims which totals to 9,539.

“We demand that the claims board acquire a copy of the masterlist of class suit members where the 9,539 victims are listed and were the ones remain intact,” said Satur Ocampo, who is among the so-called delisted class suit members.

Delisted members pertain to the more than 2,000 Hawaii-court recognized victims who were arbitrarily dropped from the list of class suit members and thus, are unable to claim reparation in two settlement agreements made by Atty. Swift.

“Ultimately, we are demanding that just recognition and reparation be given to the victims. The Aquino government should be warned not to disenfranchise victims more by violating the law which we, the martial law victims fought for in a long and hard struggle to be passed and implemented. We ousted a dictator who denied the people of their rights. We hope BS Aquino can learn the lessons of history. If he doesn’t want to be shamed if impeached, it is better for him to resign and remove himself in office NOW,” said Enriquez.