PHILIPPINES - Akbayan Celebrates Compensation Act to victims of Martial Law
Akbayan Party-list lauded the conclusion of the bicameral conference committee (bicam) on the Compensation Bill for victims of human rights violations during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, calling it a "victory of the Filipino people and of Philippine democracy" after a decades-long struggle of advocates and victims of Martial Law abuses for justice.
"Finally, over two decades after the fall of the dictatorship, we will have a law that puts the responsibility for human rights abuses square on the shoulder of Marcos and provides justice for all those who suffered under his reign," Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said today.
Bello also explained that Akbayan has relentlessly fought for this piece of legislation because it is very important in countering the efforts of the Marcos camp to white-wash the dictatorship and ensure that the abuses that took place "lives in the collective memory of the nation."
Ensuring Fair legislation for all victims
Bello, who was a member of the Lower House contingent to the bicameral committee, said that he was proud to have been part of the team of legislators that secured a fair and effective scheme for the distribution of the P10-B compensation fund to all victims of abuse, following the controversial discussion over two particular provisions of the bill.
"In the bicam, we defended the fair distribution of the P10B compensation fund to all victims of abuse, and we were successful in eliminating the 80%-20% division of the fund to ensure that all victims, or their families, will be able to get their rightful share of the compensation fund," Bello said.
The funds division pertained to a provision in the proposed measure that will reserve 80% of the P10B fund to victims of Martial Law that were declared victims of human rights abuses during the Martial Law after they filed a case against the late dictator in a court in Honolulu, Hawaii.
According to Bello, the problem with such a provision is the injustice it creates by leaving a "left-over fund" of only 20% of the P10B for thousands of other victims who were not included in the case.
Bello also explained the application of the "conclusive presumption" presumption clause to certain victims of human rights violations, including the Hawaii claimants and Martial Law victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.
"Conclusive presumption for these victims mean that they are recognized by the Human Rights Victims Compensation Board as victims of human rights violations. To ensure the correct and fair distribution of compensation, the bill gives the Board the inherent power and jurisdiction to first, review the list of victims and ensure that minor errors, such as double entries, are corrected; and second, determine the appropriate amount of compensation for each. In such cases, victims will not be required to produce documents that will prove their being a victim," Bello explained.
Protecting the national memory of Martial Law Atrocities
Bello also explained the holistic approach of the legislation to protect Philippine democracy, citing a provision of the bill that ensures that education about the atrocities will be taught to the youth.
"The nation is practically on the verge of forgetting the atrocities committed during the Martial Law period, and this is not by accident but because of the deliberate revisionist efforts of the Marcos camp to white-wash the memory of that period. Justice also lies in ensuring that Filipinos of all generations will not forget the dark, violent past, and the bill ensures that," Bello explained.
Bello also added that Akbayan has long advocated the inclusion of Martial Law atrocities in the education curriculum that is being fulfilled by the legislation.
"With the final passage of the Compensation bill into Law, by ensuring that all victims of abuse finally receive what is due them, and by strengthening the collective memory of a nation against the atrocities of the past, we achieve justice for all," Bello concluded.
Akbayan seeks legislation that ensures justice for all victims of human rights violations
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello objects to Bayan Muna's disservice to Martial Law victims
"What we want is an effective law that is fair to all victims of human rights violations. We do not want a law that will defeat its own purpose and deprive the Martial Law victims of justice."
That was the statement Akbayan issued when the group expressed its commitment to ensure that the bill compensating victims of human rights abuses during the dictatorship will be fair, constitutional and free from infirmities, contrary to the accusations Bayan Muna hurled against the group as disrupting the process at the bicameral conference committee of the said legislation.
According to Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, the issue is not about whether or not certain human rights victims are "genuine" human rights victims, the way Bayan Muna portrays it to be, but rather an issue of ensuring that the law will succeed in providing justice for all victims of Martial Law.
Creation of Left-over fund violation of Constitution
According to Bello, there is a fundamental problem with the position that Bayan Muna insists the House contingent to the bicameral conference committee to maintain - that members of the group Claimants 1081 be given special treatment by reserving 80% of the P10B compensation fund for them, which effectively creates a "left-over fund" for all the other victims of Martial Law.
"While we are in full support of the victory that Claimants 1081 received in the US, we do not want a law that accords them privileges not available to the rest of the victims of Martial Law. It is unjust for all the other victims of Martial Law to have to fight over scraps of compensation from a left-over fund," Bello said.
"Not only is it unfair, it is also a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of our constitution," Bello added, referring to Article III, Section 1, of the 1987 Constitution which states that "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws."
Bello explained that the spirit of the Compensation Act is to ensure that people who are victims of the human rights abuses be given due compensation for the Martial Law atrocities they had to endure. To ensure fairness and justice, the legislation will accord compensation that is relative to the abuse people experienced.
Bayan Muna's Disservice to Martial Law Victims
Bello continued to point out that that Bayan Muna is going against the intent of the law by creating two classes of human rights victims - the so-called genuine human rights victims who were litigants to the case in Hawaii against the Marcoses, collectively known as claimants 1081, and all the rest of Marcos' victims, and then according special privileges to the former.
"In fact, the Legislative Counselling Service of the Lower House Reference and Research Bureau raised a concern regarding the 80-20 clause when the Committee on Human Rights asked for legal opinion on the matter. It is certainly unfair for someone not party to the Honolulu case but who may have suffered greater abuse to receive much less than one who is party to the Honolulu case simply because she only has 20% of the fund to get compensation from," Bello said.
"The inherent infirmities that Bayan Muna insists must be included in the Compensation Act only serve the interests of the Marcoses and other parties whose intention is to deprive human rights victims what has long been due them," Bello added.
For Akbayan, the key to ensuring justice for all victims of Martial Law is for each one to be treated fairly, and for the law to be free of infirmities, and it is precisely this objective that they seek to achieve in the bicameral conference committee.
"Bayan Muna's insistence on a defective law is a disservice to the victims of Martial Law Atrocties and the human rights community. However, I am confident that the lies Bayan Muna is perpetuating will not prohibit the Senate and Lower House members of the bicameral conference committee from doing the right thing for the victims of Marcos' human rights abuses and for Philippine democracy," Bello concluded.
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