MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 January) – Congress has passed a bill that would give indemnification to some 10,000 victims of the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand E. Marcos. The bill is now being finalized at the bicameral conference committee.

Unfortunately, it has hit snags with the insistence of Senator Joker Arroyo and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello to exclude as victims those who took up arms against Marcos even if they too suffered rights abuses. I find this personally revolting.

Arroyo’s and Bello’s position implies two things: [1] the victims deserved the death, torture and other indignities committed against them by the Marcos dictatorship simply because they had resorted – or are believed to have resorted – to violent means; and [2] since a good number of the victims had belonged to this category, excluding them would be tantamount to exculpating the late strongman of the grave crimes he committed while in power.

It is unthinkable, if not downright absurd, that Arroyo, a human rights lawyer during Martial Law, and Bello, a prominent foreign-based activist then, are now leading the campaign to ostracize the victims who had suffered much in those dark days.

As a lawyer, Arroyo is fully aware that even suspects of ordinary crimes are entitled to the protection of their rights once they are under government custody. How much more political activists who had opted to risk their lives to get rid of a dictatorship? Even former First Lady Imeldific Marcos, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the rest of their family must be wondering what has crept into the supposedly brilliant minds of the two lawmakers, i.e. if they have no hand in this thing.

Ruling on a class suit filed by the victims, the court in Hawaii had said years ago that Marcos was guilty of human rights violations during his 20-year rule, 14 years of it under Martial Law. But Arroyo and Bello are now seeking to undermine such decision and deny justice to the victims, and in effect, absolve the Marcoses.

This is a classic case of legislative double-cross, where the very lawmakers who are least expected to oppose the approved Senate and House versions of the indemnification bill are the ones guilty of a planned rubout.

Is Bello in particular just trying to put one over Akbayan’s political rivals?

Arroyo and Bello have nothing to lose if the indemnification bill gets approved by the President without revisions that would exclude those who actually joined the armed struggle against Marcos or are believed to have done so. If this is so, then maybe they stand to gain from blocking its approval?

Just thinking aloud. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at