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Friday, May 2, 2014

THIS is beginning to sound like déjà vu. My father and uncles talked about collaborators and non-involved Juan de la Cruzes – who after the defeat of Japan in World War II – became instant “guerrillas.”

The aim was to get a slice of the pie from Japanese reparations and pensions from the US government to those Filipinos soldiers who served with the USAFFE.

Many of the combat veterans felt they suffered an injustice when the 1946 Rescission Act stripped them of any rights to military benefits.


Now the talk is not about military benefits of combat veterans who fought a foreign power. It’s about human rights victims of martial law claiming reparations from the Marcos estate.

Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, chair of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), however, warned that they received reports of people posing as personnel of the board and charging claimants to process their papers.

“We would also like to inform everyone that the Claims Board has not designated any individual or group to act as its agent in relating to, or coordinating with any legitimate claimant,” said Sarmiento.

To make sure that the real victims come forward and their claims papers processed by the HRVCB, board member Aurora Corazón Alvareda Parong emailed, texted, sent me Private Messages over Facebook, and called me on the issue. She said that the Board read online that a Bacolod human rights lawyer and councilor convened a meeting of martial law victims in Negros Occidental.

Au and I worked together in Amnesty International-Philippines. She was the former AI-Ph section director and I was a board member. Au recently retired from AI-Ph and moved on to a new human rights challenge as an HRVCB member. But we maintained contact.

A news item in a local daily said that in Bacolod, there was a move on the Sangguniang Panglungsod to create a temporary coordinating body to process claimants not included among the P10,000 plaintiffs in the Robert Swift case.

Further, the Bacolod convening body questioned the appointment of Sarmiento as the HRVCB chair. The councilor claimed that the claimants have reason to question the composition of the board formed by President Aquino since it is headed by retired PNP Chief Supt. Lina Sarmiento, which they believe is part of those who had violated human right in the past.

I had a talk with one of the Bacolod conveners. I told him that the accusation against Sarmiento is essentially guilt by association. Then I relayed to him what Au told me.

So far, after our conversation, there had been no further press statements. Let’s give it a rest.

Au emphasized that the HRVCB had not authorized any local organization to process the claims of human rights victims. Any documents that failed to pass through them will be declared null and invalid.

As the Implementing Rules and Regulations states, that “any doubt in the implementation and interpretation hereof shall be resolved in favor of facilitating the reparation and recognition of bona fide human rights violations victims or their legal heirs.”

So, if there are any questions on the victims or on the composition of the HRVCB, please relay it to the appropriate body, that is, the Board itself, not on media and on social media.

There is substantial amount of money involved. “Reparation,” under the Act, refers to the obligation of the State to restore the rights and uphold the dignity of the victims, which is part of the right to an effective remedy. Reparation shall be both monetary and non-monetary.

Victims will get P10 billion plus accrued interest which will be used as a principal source fund for the implementation of the R.A 10368.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 02, 2014.


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