MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 June) – The Human Rights Victims Claims Board should categorically and publicly state that it recognizes the 9,539 martial law victims as those covered by “conclusive presumption” under Republic Act 10368, the Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Law, the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) said Tuesday.
In a statement, Selda pointed out that these victims and the 24 direct action plaintiffs were those who filed and won the class action suit filed in a Hawaii court against former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Selda, a nationwide association of Martial Law-era political prisoners, issued the statement as the claims board announced it has scheduled trips to five cities in Mindanao to accept applications for recognition and reparation under the law.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Ponciano Resuena who works in the Commission on Human Rights’ Martial Law Files Project, said the board will accept applications in Cotabato City (July 7-9), Butuan City (July 28-29), Cagayan de Oro City (July 31-August 1, Davao City (August 4-6), and Zamboanga City (August 18-20).
He said that so far only around 300 have submitted applications since May 12 this year, the start of the six-month period for accepting said applications.
“We would like to reiterate that all victims of martial law have to apply in person, including those conclusively presumed as human rights violations victims so that the Claims Board will be able to determine the kind of human rights violations and determine appropriate awards, as provided by RA 10368,” Board Chairperson Lina C. Sarmiento said in a statement posted on the board’s website.
RA 10368 provides for the recognition and reparations for victims of the Martial Law regime of Marcos. Their names will be enshrined in the Roll of Human Rights Violations Victims by the Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission.
The law recognizes as “conclusively presumed human rights violations victims” the class suit and direct action plaintiffs of cases filed in Honolulu and other US courts against Marcos, and those recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.
The claims board also said “it can render motu propio recognition to some victims of martial law through judicial notice.”
Selda, however, said “more than 2,000 Hawaii court-recognized victims were ignored and unable to claim indemnification in the last two settlement agreements prior to the passing of RA 10368.”
“They are referred to as ‘delisted’ victims, their names having been arbitrarily dropped from the original list of more than 9,500. Their number seems to be increasing from more than 2,000 in 2012 to 3,000 this year,” it said.
The group said it was worried because RA 10368’s Implementing Rules and Regulations on who are considered under the “conclusive presumption” clause.
“SELDA recommended that the IRR should cover the 9,539 class action and 24 direct action plaintiffs. But, these were ignored,” it added.
“The 9,539 were recognized as the legitimate martial law victims, along with the 24 direct action plaintiffs after the original list submitted to the Hawaii Court was validated by a Special Masters’ Review in 1994,” it pointed out.
“But, in the past three weeks since the Aquino Claims Board began processing claims, it has not yet shown the official list that bears the name of the 9,539 ML victims and the 24 direct action plaintiffs recognized by the Hawaii court,” it said.
Selda noted that the delisted victims include Ka Satur Ocampo, the author of the indemnification bill. Also among the delisted well-known Martial Law activists are playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, Tatalon mass leader Carmencita “Ka Miling” Florentino, Bayan Chair Dr. Carol Araullo, journalist and writer Pete Lacaba and former UP Faculty Regent Dr. Judy Taguiwalo.
“The delisted victims would also like to go over the original Hawaii Court master list to show that they are in fact listed and have their claim numbers. This is a public record that the BS Aquino Claims Board should make available,” the group said.
“People who have valiantly suffered much under martial law don’t want to beg nor waste their time. They do not have to prove anew that they were ML victims. It will be another injustice and a violation of the victims’ rights if thousands of them are delisted and required to file as new claimants,” it added.
Ocampo and Araullo, with Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, earlier filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court to annul the appointment of Sarmiento as chair of the BS Aquino Claims Board for supposedly failing to meet the criteria set by the law.
The petition stated, “… the appointment of a Chairperson of the Board who belongs to an institution whose predecessor, the Philippine Constabulary, is part of the machinery that has wreaked havoc and terror on the lives of countless activists not only negates the clear intention of RA10368 itself but altogether puts the integrity of the entire Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board in question.”
Sarmiento is a retired police officer who began her career with the defunct Philippine Constabulary, which committed the most number of human rights violations during Martial Law based on the records of human rights groups.
“We want the martial law victims to be recognized, not just monetarily, but historically. That is the most important,” Selda concluded.
A staffer at the board meanwhile confirmed the dates provided by Resuena but could not say where the venues for the acceptance of applications will be.
“We have requested CHR (Commission on Human Rights) to make the necessary arrangements,” the staffer said in a text message.
The same source said they expected some 2,000 victims from Mindanao to file applications.
Failure of victims to file claims on or before November 10, 2014 “will be considered a waiver.”
Resuena said they set schedules in Mindanao so that claimants need not go to Manila to file their applications.
The board’s website said application forms and information materials are available at the regional offices of CHR.
Based on the board’s timetable, monetary reparations will be released from December 2015 to March 2016.
The board, a quasi-judicial body, was created to receive, evaluate and process all claims, award reparation, and recognize the victims by enshrining their names in the Roll of Human Rights Violations Victims. The whole program ends in May 2016.
Who may apply?
The board specified that a person who is a human rights violation victim as defined by the law, claimants who are conclusively presumed to be a victim under the law and legal heir/s or authorized representative of victims who are deceased, incapacitated, or involuntarily disappeared, may app ly.
The law covers human rights violations committed by State officials and/or agents during the period from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986.
The Marcos dictatorship was ousted in a civilian-backed military uprising on February 25, 1986. Along with his family, the strongman was airlifted by the US military to Hawaii where the class suit was filed against him.
Applicants are required to submit an application form, detailed notarized statement of the human rights violation, proof of filiation and relationship issued by the National Statistics Office or Office (NSO) or the Local Civil Registrar. In the absence of such proofs, they may submit affidavits of at least two disinterested individuals, according to http://hrvclaimsboard.gov.ph.
In cases where a victim is physically incapacitated to file the application personally, the board has required “a notarized authorization showing proof of identity of the authorized representative and his/her bona fide relationship with the victim.”
In cases of mental or psychological disability of the victim, the board has required proof of filiation and relationship of the nearest next of kin in accordance with the Civil Code provisions on succession issued by the NSO or the Local Civil Registrar.
Resuena warned that victims and kin should be wary of counterfeit forms and swindlers.
Application forms can be downloaded online for free. (Walter I. Balane and H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)