CHR to convene claims board for Martial Law victims

The compensation due the victims will be determined through a points system – types of human rights violations will have corresponding points

REPARATION. (From left) Martial Law Files project coordinator Myrna Jimenes, Commission on Human Rights Chair Etta Rosales, Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber, Regional Dealing with the Past adviser Jonathan Sisson, SwissPeace Dealing with the Past head Elisabeth Baumgartner. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Very soon, the process of determining the reparation and compensation due the Martial Law victims will start.

A year after the passage of Republic Act No 10368 – the law granting indemnification to victims of human rights during the Marcos regime – the claims board that would screen and grant monetary reparation for victims will be convened in the first quarter of 2014.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Etta Rosales made the announcement in a press conference in Makati on Friday, January 31. 

Rosales admitted the President Benigno Aquino III’s appointment of the claims board might have been overtaken by events that plagued the country over the past months. 

Ayokong magsisita (I didn’t want to nag), he’s very busy. But when I texted him, he responded right away. You know, with all the problems that the country encountered [over the past months],” Rosales said. 

The law was signed on Feb 25, 2013, the anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolt that kicked President Ferdinand Marcos out of power.

In the meantime, CHR has started drafting the internal rules and regulations for the board. 

Under the law, the amount of monetary reparation that will be awarded to Martial Law victims will be determined through a points system based on the gravity of the abuses inflicted against them. 

The system will work as follows: 

  • Victims who died or who disappeared and are still missing shall be given 10 points.
  • Victims who were tortured and/or raped or sexually abused shall be given 6 to 9 points.
  • Victims who were detained shall be given 3 to 5 points.
  • Other forms of human rights violations will get one point to two points.

The amount of P10 billion has been allocated for the project. It comes from the $680 million (roughly P30.8 billion) of ill-gotten wealth returned to the Philippine Treasury from Marcos’ Swiss deposits. 

The law says fake claimants will face imprisonment of 8-10 years and will be deprived of the right to vote and be barred from seeking public office and employment.

Martial Law archives project 

To help the claims board determine the authenticity of claims, the CHR has started a Martial Law Files project, an archive of classified files from the military, the police, Malacañang, and civil society. 

Rosales said the CHR has now collated a total of 15,000 cases, with 10,000 coming from those detained illegally by the military. CHR is expecting to receive 3,000 additional cases from walk-ins. 

The first stages of the Martial Law Files project can be viewed at martiallawfiles.net. At the moment, CHR, in cooperation with SwissPeace, is still in the process of declassifying which data should remain confidential to the board, which data should remain known only to the families of the victims, and which ones can be released to the public. 

Once the data has been collated and processed, the archive will also serve as a basis for the “non-monetary” aspect of healing the wounds of the past. 

“The vision would be writing history in its correct version,” Martial Law Files Project manager Myrna Jimenez said. “It’s also about the restoration of dignity, because a lot of those who were imprisoned were slapped with charges, such as stealing, murder, etc.”

Based on more new and additional information from the archives, CHR will also work on necessary revisions to history as taught in schools.

To enable the CHR to learn about how other countries have conducted their own archiving, the Swiss Embassy, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Peace Foundation, and the Commission on Human Rights organized a week-long workshop attended by resource persons who had done similar work in Argentina, South Africa, France, Bangladesh, and Switzerland.  

“The importance of preserving archives and records on human rights violations committed during dictatorships or wars is often underestimated or even forgotten,” Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber said.

He added that “documenting atrocities and human fates” is essential to bringing evidence-based justice for individuals and reconciliation for society.  Rappler.com