Wednesday, March 2, 2011

BusinessWorld Online Edition |Human rights abuse victims finally receive compensation

BusinessWorld Online Edition |Human rights abuse victims finally receive compensation

Posted on February 28, 2011 10:19:21 PM

Human rights abuse victims finally receive compensation

VICTIMS OF human rights abuses during the Marcos regime yesterday started receiving compensation from a case won in the United States, the Commission on Human Rights said yesterday.

An initial 12 beneficiaries from over 7,500 eligible claimants each received checks worth P43,200 in ceremonies at Club Filipino in San Juan City, Metro Manila.

The legal victory for human rights victims at the US District Court of Hawaii was a consolidated class action suit for torture, summary execution and enforced disappearances of individuals during Martial Law.

It is the first time the victims will receive compensation since 1986 when they filed the class suit in a Hawaii court.

Deposed president Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family sought refuge in the US state after the People Power revolution in February 1986 that ousted the dictatorship.

The funds come from a $10-million settlement of a case against individuals controlling Texas and Colorado lands purchased with ill-gotten wealth, less $2.5 million for legal fees and payment to the person who had identified the properties.

These were drawn from an escrow account in the US.

According to reports, Judge Manuel Real of the US District Court of Hawaii approved in January the distribution of $7.5 million in cash to 7,526 eligible members of the class-action lawsuit. There were 9,539 claimants when the case was filed, but around 2,000 of them did not meet court requirements.

Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman (1st district, Albay) whose brother, Hermon was a victim of enforced disappearance during Martial Law said in a statement the "$1,000 may be miniscule relative to the totality of the mind-blogging Marcos ill-gotten wealth, but the compensation of such amount to each Marcos HRVV (human rights violation victims) is a significant step toward transitional justice."

As a follow-up to the legal victory, congressmen are pushing the passage of bills that will allow disbursement of ill-gotten wealth already in government coffers to compensate human rights victims and their families who suffered during Martial Law.

"The passage of the measure will affirm the moral and legal obligation of the State to grant them indemnification, which is a universally recognized fundamental principle of law, and is a crucial element to the basic human right to obtain redress for violations of substantive human rights and norms," Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro A. Casiño, Jr., one of the author of the bills, said in an interview yesterday.

House Bills 54 and 1693, or the proposed Marcos compensation Act filed by Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada III (4th district, Quezon) and Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Casiño and Neri J. Colmenares, respectively, will grant the Executive powers to disburse some P10 billion worth of Marcos wealth already sequestered by the government to compensate victims of human rights violations.

Under the bills, those entitled to compensation are individuals who were determined as victims of human rights violation such as arrest without warrant; arrest or detention on a Palace-issued arrest, seize and seizure order (ASSO); a presidential commitment order (PCO); or a preventive detention action (PDA) which were widely issued from Sept. 21, 1972 to Feb. 25, 1986.

The measures further provide that the highest amount of compensation shall be given to victims of involuntary disappearance which shall be fixed and uniform among qualified claimants.

Next are families of victims of summary execution, while another amount shall be given to victims of torture.

A proposed seven-member commission will be created that shall oversee human rights claims. It will be composed of the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in an ex-officio capacity; a retired justice of the Supreme Court as vice-chairperson; one representative each from three nongovernmental human rights organizations that existed during Martial Law, namely, Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), Friends and Families of Victims of Disappearances (FIND) and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD); the chief librarian of the University of the Philippines Main Library, and a known human rights advocate from the legal profession. -- Noemi M. Gonzales

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