“Martial law victim na, pinahihirapan pa”
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,”
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
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
“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?”
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
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.
“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.