MANILA, Philippines – A year after the signing of the Martial Law compensation bill into law, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, February 13, finally named the members of the claims board tasked to screen and grant reparation for human rights victims during the Marcos regime.
Lina Castillo Sarmiento, the retired first female two-star general of the Philippine National Police, has been tasked to lead the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
She will be joined by:
- Wilfred Asis
- Galuasch Ballaho
- Byron Bocar
- Jose Luis Martin Gascon
- Glenda Litong
- Jacqueline Veloria Mejia
- Aurora Corazon Parong
- Erlinda Senturias
Sarmiento retired from the PNP in January 2014, months ahead of her birthday in September, when she would reach the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Asked whether Sarmiento’s early retirement was connected with her appointment to the claims board, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said he had no information on the matter.
“Ang batayan po ng Pangulo sa paghirang ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan ay iyong kanilang kakayahan at mga qualifications. Mayroon din pong vetting process, mayroon pong mga nagno-nominate ng mga advocacy and stakeholder groups. At iyon po iyong pagtaya sa kanilang kakayahan na magampanan ang tungkuling nakatakda sa batas,” Coloma said.
(The President’s basis for appointing government officials are their capabilities and qualifications. There’s also a vetting process. There are also those who nominate their advocacy and stakeholder groups. That’s how we assess the capability to perform the responsibilities required of them under the law.)
Under Republic Act No 10368 – the law granting indemnification to victims of human rights during the Marcos regime – the claims board will be in charge of receiving, evaluating, processing, and investigating the applications for the claims.
A total of P10 billion out of the $680 million (roughly P30.8 billion) worth of ill-gotten wealth returned to the Philippines Treasury from Marcos’ Swiss accounts has been allocated for the project.
How will the amount be divided among human rights victims? It will be determined through a points system based on the gravity of abuses inflicted against them.
The points 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.
Meanwhile, the law imposes stiff penalties for fake claimants. They will face imprisonment of 8-10 years, be deprived of the right to vote, and be prohibited from seeking public office and government employment.
Urgency of the task at hand
The Aquino administration in the past received criticisms for failing to implement the Martial Law victims reparation law right after it was passed. (READ: Martial Law victims: ‘Remember us’)
To make up for lost time, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Etta Rosales earlier told reporters the CHR has started drafting the internal rules and regulations of the claims board. The approval of the IRR will be the first task on the board’s agenda, Rosales said.
Malacañang acknowledged the urgency of granting reparation to victims who suffered human rights abuses 4 decades ago.
“Nandoon po iyong sense of urgency. Katulad na nga po ng ating sinabi kani-kanina lamang na dahil ang naganap na usapin ay mahigit ng apat na dekada ang nakararaan at ipinasa na nga ng ating Kongreso ang batas na ito upang magkaroon ng sistematikong paraan ng pagkamit ng katarungan nung mga pamilya ng mga inabuso, sinaktan o nasawi dahil sa pagpataw ng Batas Militar sa ating bansa. Meron po silang sense of urgency sa pagharap sa kanilang mga bagong tungkulin,” Coloma said.
(The sense of urgency is there. Like what I said, because what happened occured 4 decades ago, Congress passed this law to install a systematic way for victims of human rights abuse during the Martial Law to seek justice. They have a sense of urgency in fulfilling their new responsibilities.) – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com