House OKs longer validity of Martial Law victims' compensation

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading a joint resolution seeking to extend the validity of funds for the reparation of Martial Law victims to December 31, 2019. 

Legislators voted 213-0-0 on Wednesday, August 29, to approve House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 26. The joint resolution was approved on 2nd reading on August 14.

The joint resolution, however, still has a long way to go before the 17th Congress would adopt it.  The Senate version remains pending with the committee on justice and human rights. 

Why the need for an extension? HJR 26 states that the account of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB) with the Land Bank of the Philippines shall be maintained only until August 11, after which funds will be reverted to the Bureau of the Treasury.

As of June 28, the HRVCB reported a balance of P792.628 million. (READ: What the gov't still owes Martial Law victims)

The HRVCB, created through Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, is a quasi-judicial body. It is mandated by law "to receive, evaluate, process, and investigate" reparation claims made by victims of human rights violations under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' Martial Law.

District representatives said that without "immediate intervention," victims of human rights violations during the Marcos era would be denied the monetary reparation intended for them.

"While no amount of monetary reparation will restore lost lives, properties, broken relations, and dreams of the human rights victims and their families, the reparation is important for them, as it forms part of the overall recognition of the reality of human rights violations and their immeasurable suffering under the Marcos regime," states HJR 26. 

Legislators said the HRVCB had issued a total of 451 "problematic checks" to the Martial Law victims, 291 of which amounted to P239,198,836 in unreleased checks and another 160 checks totaling P110,931,460 for payees who are now deceased. 

In May, HRVCB Chairperson Lina Sarmiento said the final list consisting of 11,103 names who will receive monetary compensation was approved.

How is the compensation computed? The amount of monetary compensation is based on a point system, depending on the violation as provided by the law: 

Each claimant who is deemed eligible by the board will receive from P176,779 for one point to P1,767,790 for 10 points. The money distributed comes from the P10 billion in ill-gotten wealth recovered from the Marcos family.

Victims are also entitled to other forms of compensation, such as social services at the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others.

Martial Law is considered to be the darkest chapter in Philippine history. Amnesty International estimated that about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed during Marcos' iron-fist rule. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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