>Over 7,000 victims of human rights abuses during the administration of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos may finally start receiving on Monday US$1,000 (over P43,000) each as compensation for their suffering, 25 years after the former strongman was ousted.
A total of 7,526 claimants will receive their indemnification starting March 1, which is part of a $10-million settlement fund approved for distribution by US District Court Judge Manuel Real in January this year – but only if they follow the strict guidelines for receiving their share. According to a report by GMA News’ Sandra Aguinaldo on “24 Oras”, court-appointed lawyer Robert Swift, who represented the victims in a class suit against Marcos, arrived in the Philippines on Thursday to supervise the distribution of the cheques throughout the country. This page requires a higher version browser “The letter [to the claimants] covers [the guidelines for claiming]. I want them to bring the letter and their identification and, if they have that, it should go pretty quickly and smoothly,” Swift said in the newscast The $10-million fund came from a settlement between the victims and the corporation which handles the land properties in the United States owned by the Marcoses, which are believed to be part of the family’s ill-gotten wealth. Of the $10 million, only $7.5 million is up for distribution while the remaining $2.5 million will go to lawyers, including Swift. Swift said there are two other Marcos properties, one in New York and the other in Singapore, which may also be the subject of litigation for compensation for victims. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) meanwhile said it is allowing Swift’s group to make use of the commission’s offices across the nation to facilitate distribution of the money. “Mayroon siyempreng mga wala sa class suit pero victims, so ang CHR, taga-document… [Sila] ‘yung magiging beneficiaries of the pending bill in Congress,” CHR chair Loretta Rosales said in the same newscast. (See: House pushes for unified bill on compensation to Marcos victims) (Of course there will be those who are not in the class suit but were also victims, so the CHR will serve as documentor. These other victims will be the beneficiaries of the pending bill in Congress.)
In the same newscast, Rodrigo Domingo, the Filipino counsel collaborating with Swift, said the distribution will begin in Metro Manila on March 1 at the CHR office in Quezon City. The schedule for the rest of the regions has yet to be announced. Strict requirements The news was welcomed by victims of human rights violations during the two-decade rule of Marcos, even as some expressed concerns that not all legitimate claimants may have the capability to comply with all the requirements on time.
Interviewed by GMA News in the same newscast, Teresita Cruz, a labor union leader who was arrested and imprisoned for six months during martial law, said: “Walang katumbas na pera ‘yung aming pagkakakulong at ‘yung mental torture na naramdaman ko noong panahon na iyon. Pero dahil meron kaming katiting na matatanggap, parang meron nang konting justice.” (Our imprisonment and the mental torture I experienced cannot be equated with any amount of money. But since we will be getting a small amount, I feel we’re getting justice to some extent.)
In a letter announcing the start of the distribution of the compensation, Swift said claimants from Metro Manila must appear in person at the CHR office in Quezon City, and distribution will last only until March 7, with claimants assigned a single day for processing their claims based on their last names. It is not clear what will happen to claimants who fail to come on their scheduled date. Claimants are also asked to bring the original notice they received, and at least two valid identification, such as passport, voter’s ID, driver’s license or NBI clearance. The letter added that a special power of attorney issued to a relative by the claimant will not be honored, and that relatives must present a death certificate in case the claimant is already deceased. ‘Arbitrary delisting’ of some claimants In a separate interview with GMA News Online, former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo said he welcomes the long-overdue compensation for Marcos-era victims of human rights abuses, but Swift has yet to explain why some 2,000 petitioners were removed from the list of beneficiaries. Ocampo, himself a torture victim who was imprisoned for a total of nine years, explained that of the original 9,539 petitioners who initiated the filing of the class action suit against Marcos in Hawaii, only 7,526 were declared eligible for compensation. “Ang problema, may mga nasa original na petition ang hindi napadalhan ng notice, natanggal na. Kailangang ipakita ni Atty. Swift and listahan ng included at excluded, at ipaliwanag kung bakit natanggal ang iba,” said Ocampo, who is also a board member of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an association of former political prisoners. (The problem is that some who were included in the original petition did not receive the notice and were removed from the list. Atty. Swift has to show us the list of those included and excluded, and explain why some were removed.)
According to Ocampo, Swift explained in statements to the media that the 2,000 were removed from the list after failing to respond to a second notice sent by the US court in 1999. The first notice was in 1993. In a statement, SELDA denounced the “arbitrary” delisting of some of the petitioners, saying some of them have transferred residence and were thus unable to receive the notice. “The bases of the delisting were among the questions we raised with Atty. Swift and the US Court because the victims and their families need clarification and concrete answers. Many of them are now old and sickly, and measures to render justice through indemnification should be ensured,” said Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA secretary general. Ocampo thus urged Congress to expedite the passage of House Bill (HB) 1693, which seeks to provide a more comprehensive compensation for victims of torture, extra-judicial killings and other forms of human rights violations during the Marcos regime. “Importante ito sa mga pamilya at sa mga biktima, dahil matatanda na sila at maysakit ang iba,” Ocampo said. (This is important to the victims and to their families, because they are now elderly and some are sickly.) HB 1693, or the Marcos Human Rights Victims Compensation Act of 2010, seeks to create a commission that will oversee the distribution of P10 billion to the over 9,500 victims. Under the bill, those entitled to receive compensation are individuals who were proven victims of human rights violations, such as warrantless arrest; arrest or detention based on an arrest, search and seizure order; a presidential commitment order; or a preventive detention action illegally issued during the Marcos dictatorship, among other violations.—JV