Bicam OKs Martial Law victims compensation bill

Angela Casauay

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The bill will most likely be ratified on Monday, January 28

MASS ARRESTS. Martial law led to the arrest of Marcos critics. Photo courtesy of Dr Ferdinand Llanes, from the exhibit of UP Likas

MANILA, Philippines – Another historic bill is one step closer to becoming a law. 

The bicameral conference committee on Wednesday, January 23, approved “in principle” the bill that will provide compensation for activists who were imprisoned, tortured, or whose relatives disappeared during the Marcos regime.

The bill seeks to provide reparation for victims of human rights violations during the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos covering the period from Sept 21, 1972 to Feb 25, 1986, when he was ousted.

It has a total budget of P10-B that will be sourced from Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth recovered from Swiss banks. 

Bicam members have yet to sign the final version of the bill as it will still be printed, according to Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada, principal author of the bill. But they have agreed to approve the measure. 

The bicam report will be circulated for signatures on Friday and ratified on Monday, January 28, Tañada said. 

Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares said Congress and President Benigno Aquino III must immediately ratify and sign the bill, respectively, “so that the reparation process can start.” 

The proposed Act, which has been pending since the 11th Congress, received a boost after President Aquino met Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf at the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos in November 2012. During the meeting, Aquino gave his assurances that he would urge Congress to fast-track the approval of the bill. 

The Senate passed its version on the same month while the House has passed its version as early as March last year. 

Compensation board

To manage the compensation program, the President will appoint members of a Human Rights Victims Compensation Board that will be created once the bill is signed into law. 

The board will determine the amount of reparation that a human rights victim — or family members if the victim is already deceased — will receive based on a points system that will be finalized once the board establishes its internal rules and regulations. 

For example, the bill recommends that victims of enforced disappearance should receive a total of 10 points. This entitles them to the highest amount of compensation available. Victims of torture will receive 6-9 points while those detained will receive 3-5 points.

Tañada said the 9,539 claimants in the 1995 case in Honolulu, Hawaii, who were recognized as martial law victims by the United States Federal Court, as well as about 200 martial law victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, will be “conclusively presumed” as human rights victims under the bill.
However, the board will still have to determine the amount of money that each will be receiving.
Tañada also noted that the Bantayog ng mga Bayani list includes human rights violations that were committed after the Marcos regime. This is not covered by the bill. 
Other human rights victims who were not included in the Hawaii case and the Bantayog list will have to go through a screening process. 

The board will be abolished after two years. Its mandate may only be extended after a year through an Executive Order. 

Contentious provisions 
The most contentious issue in the Senate and House versions was the 80-20 provision, which was understood to have meant that 80% — or P8-B of the P10-B budget — will be allocated for the 10,000 claimants in the Honolulu case. 
Akbayan Rep Walden Bello opposed the provision, saying it was “unfair” for such a percentage to already be reserved for the Hawaii claimants.  There were about 6,000 other cases that were not included in the Hawaii case, according to Bello. 
“We decided to drop it and not anymore insist because there is so much misunderstanding on the provision,” Tañada said.  –

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