Commemorating the 27th EDSA anniversary, President Benigno Aquino III signed a law that will compensate victims of human rights violations committed by late dictator and former President Ferdinand Marcos’ security forces during his reign.
Known as Republic Act (RA) 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, the law will distribute P10 billion as monetary compensation to 10,000 Marcos era victims. The funding will be primarily sourced from the Marcos Family’s Swiss bank deposits and the sum’s accrued interest.
From the P10 billion fund, an estimated P500 million would be allocated for the establishment of a library, a museum and memorial that would commemorate the victims under Martial Law.
The Senate and the House of Representatives reconciled the bill in a bicameral panel last January 23, 2013. An agreement was reached following prior debates on whether some 9,000 plaintiffs who filed a class suit against Marcos in a Hawaiian court should be granted compensation under conclusive presumption.
In addition to the 9,539 plaintiffs, those recognized by the Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani Foundation would also be awarded damages without further need of proof.
Aside from the monetary compensation, survivors may also be granted social and psychological assistance, according to bill sponsor Senator Francis Escudero, Chair of the Senate committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Pursuant to the passage of the law, the government will create a Human Rights Victims Compensation Board, which would be composed a Chairperson and eight other members. The President, based on nominations from various human rights groups, will appoint the members and chairperson.
Through the board, aspiring claimants may appeal for compensation so as long as they present conclusive proof. Under the law, the board will use a point system to determine the amount of compensation to give the victim, depending on the gravity of the violation and abuse a plaintiff experienced.
Relatives of victims who were murdered or missing will be granted 10 points, while survivors subjected to human rights felonies such as torture, sexual abuse and rape will be granted nine to six points.
Political detainees, as well as other human rights violations, will be given points that would range from five to one.
Prior to signing, the bill underwent an extensive legislative process chiefly delayed by the difficulties in retrieving the Marcoses’ monetary assets.
Initial attempts by the Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), an ad-hoc agency formed to retrieve the former dictator’s wealth, allegedly plundered from the Philippine treasury were mired with delays.
According to the first PCGG Chairperson Jovito Salonga, the plundered funds were traced back to three main sources: kickbacks from public works, diverted foreign economic aid and United States (US) military aid received for sending Filipino troops to Vietnam.
Furthermore, as a new board, the PCCG did not have established tools and procedures to efficiently conduct the search project. Upon identifying the location of the said assets, then-President Corazon Aquino’s administration sought to work with the Swiss government to retrieve Marcos’ wealth.
Despite prior hesitance, the Swiss Federal Reserve on 1997 agreed to return some $680 million of the Marcoses’ assets to the Philippines, meeting two conditions: an official Philippine court declaration of the funds as “ill-gotten” and monetary compensation for victims recognized in a class suit in Hawaii against the Marcoses.
Upon the ratification of RA 10368, both conditions have already been met.
Grounds for more debate
Former La Salle brother novitiate and Marcos-era student activist Leonardo Sta. Romana (LIA-ED, ‘71) believes that it is good that the Marcos dictatorship abuses have now been officially recognized.
In an interview with The LaSallian, senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Atty. Marwil Llasos explains that the law was needed, and it is advantageous that the funding does not come from taxpayers’ money.
Atty. Llasos, however, attests, “there must be a passage of the Freedom of Information [so that we know how] much money goes to the compensation of victims.”
Political Science professor Dr. Eric V. Batalla believes that although the passage of the law finally recognizes the atrocities committed under the Marcos regime, it is risky due to peoples’ subjective moral principles. He adds that the retrieved funds could be more efficiently appropriated for the improvement of the Philippine state, particularly in improving security and ensuring future generations are not abused the same way.
Marcos’ son and incumbent Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. shares similar sentiments on his official Facebook page, posted on the midnight of the 2013 EDSA anniversary. He criticizes “trapos” for purely lauding the law whilst the Filipino citizens, “are still mired in poverty, joblessness, and privation.”
Sen. Marcos also questions the selectivity of the measure, and believes lawmakers should also address human rights issues that arose even after his father left.
Constant demonstrations against administrative oppression and Ferdinand Marcos’ regime marked the height of student activism at DLSU forty years ago.
In an informal survey conducted by The LaSallian, a responded argues that DLSU students today should not be concerned about the law, since students should focus on schoolwork.
Granted that the bill was signed into law, he also believes the main issue is being addressed. He adds that not all were related to victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
Reina Nava (IV, BSA), however, believes that the law is a vital commemoration. She states, “the issue on human rights abuses during the Marcos regime is an important reminder [to] us that the State plays an important duty to protect and uphold human rights.”
Shaira Malapad (I, AB-POM) concludes, “I believe that awareness is our strongest weapon against oppression. If we are aware of these issues, then we will be more engaged and vigilant on preserving our rights.”