Bicam OKs Martial Law victims compensation bill

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.