Human Rights claimants treated like paupers

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ON THE third day of the remote intake operation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) in Davao City, conditions have just gotten from worse to worst.

First told that the applications will be accepted at the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) office, a tiny office by the side of the Davao City Recreation Center (Almendras Gym), last Tuesday, Wednesday morning opened with the fact that the HRVCB staff were not anywhere around Almendras Gym, and were instead at the City Council.

They too were not there, nor were they at the Commission on Human Rights Office 11 along Quimpo Boulevard, another tiny three-storey building that cannot accommodate even a hundred people.

Lucky few, unlucky hundreds
DAVAO. Lucky are the less than 100 who make it inside the Bankerohan Gym for they have chairs and a roof above their heads to shade them from the blazing sun. Outside, hundreds of others, most of them senior citizens, are squeezed tight in a line with no seat, no shade, no water, and no one telling them what to do. This is the third day of the submission for application of claims for human rights violations during the Martial Law years by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. Many of those outside have been in line for three days already. (King Rodriguez)


The applicants for human rights claims finally learned that the applications will be accepted in Bankerohan Gym. Many of those made to go through the “amazing race” around Davao City are in their 60s and do not know their way around Davao City, being from as far as the Cotabato provinces.


Worse, the HRVCB are still ill-equipped to handle today’s mob as they plodded through a total of 809 claims-applicants for the past two days – 362 last Monday, and 447 last Tuesday.

"Hindi namin inasahan na ganito kadami ang mga claimants. We will ensure na matatapos namin ito lahat. Tinawagan namin ulit yung mga taga-Davao City to please come kasi sila ang priority although inaasikaso naman namin lahat," said Lawyer Arcadio DC Benitez Jr.

The operation should have ended Wednesday, but the HRVCB has extended it for one more day, today, Thursday.

They are hoping they can entertain the remaining crowd but did not categorically say how many is in the crowd.

Aside from Davao City, some of the claimants who lined up in a tight squeeze with their requirements and waited under the heat of the sun were from North Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City.

In a separate interview, Karapatan national chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, said it is disheartening for her to see how the human rights victims suffers in such disorder process of the claims board. She added some claimants collapsed due to starvation and heat of the sun.

“I was asking them why the victims are made to wait under the heat of the sun when many of them are already old. We were the ones who suggested to bring in water because on the first day, they did not even prepare water to drink. Many are now losing their temper because they have been told to just return the following day several times," Hilao-Enriquez said in Tagalog.

“The claimants themselves are getting into arguments because those from afar were told that they are supposed to file their applications here, but the board has been disregarding them. I am not blaming anyone, I’m just saying there is no system in place," Hilao-Enriquez added.

Hilao-Enriquez also shared that Lina Sarmiento, chair of the HRVCB, who was here on Monday, blew her top in exasperation over the large number of claimants that flocked at the Davao City Recreation Center in the city.

Hilao-Enriquez said there were claimants who were told to go home because they failed to show certificates and records that details their relationship to the victims, adding that the board is also asking the claimants proof of the supposed abuse when they could just have been accommodated but their applications left pending until their complete their documents.

Contrary to Sarmiento’s outburst, Benitez said that those who lack certain requirements can sent it to their office in Quezon City through LBC.

Waiting in vain

Kido Dima, 72, who hails from Midsayap town in North Cotabato, said he arrived here on Monday, but until Wednesday his name wasn’t called yet.

When asked where he stays since he arrived in the city, he said he has been sleeping outside the Davao City Recreation Center.

“Lunes pa tawon mi diri. Gilista ra man to among ngalan ingon hulat-hulat lang kay tawagon ra daw mi, hantod karon la pa. Wala man mi nasuko or naa ginabasul pero kapoy ilang proseso ba. Iniisip namin unsa nalang ang taga Davao muadto sa’mo (We’ve been here since Monday. Our names were listed and we were told to wait. We’ve been waiting until now. We’re not blaming anyone, what we’re saying is that their process is very tiring. Why can’t they go to Cotabato instead)?” Edgar Aratok, 41, a resident of Cotabato City.

Sandot Kunday, 70, of Cotabato City shares the same story of having being told to just wait for his turn after somebody listed his name.

“Tua gilista among ngalan human igo lang gibulsa. Naa’y uban musingit pa jud sa linya. Gasto sa pamasahe human ingon ani ra pag abot namo diari, unta ilang na giklaro una ilang proseso. Dili lalim. Init pa jud panahon (We saw the person list our name and then put the list in his pocket. There are many who would insert in line. We had to spend for our fare going here and yet we arrive to find no one explaining how it will be done. It’s not easy, it’s very hot).”

Nonigia Labasan, 45, from Kalimbang in Sultan Kudarat, said she along with her 60 colleagues went here, hoping that they will able to file their claim but until now they’re still waiting. She said: “Honestly, we’re all starving. We only ate bread yesterday (Tuesday). We didn’t expect that the process will take long.”

Even the venue kept on changing, Lingaya Uyag-Kanipaan, 50, of Sultan Kudarat said. She just wishes this to be over so they can all go home.

Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar, who was among those who lined up for two days, noted that the process, which is being assisted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 11, is inefficient. He quoted another human rights victim who said: “This inefficiency victimizes the victims twice over!”

“Tempers erupted and the chaotic situation made everyone frustrated. I felt nostalgic about the rallies and demonstrations during martial rule. No matter how big was the crowd, there was always order as to where the people will place themselves and the sense of discipline was something one was very proud of,” Gaspar said.

In response to the Facebook posts of Gaspar about the absence of a working system in the process, HRVCB member Aurora Parong could only apologize and assured that steps were being done to make the process more “friendly to the applications.”

“We have had good applications process with only minor snags in some parts of the country like in CDO, La Union, Baguio, Cebu, Butuan, etc. due to several positive factors,” she said.

Incidentally, in a report by Mindanews quoting another board member Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon, who visited Tuesday and called Benitez’s attention on why those in line were not made to sit down on the bleachers of Almendras Gym instead, he was told it was the regional CHR that made arrangements.

Bankerohan Gym, unlike Almendras, does not have bleachers.

Benitez, on the other hand, said as of today, they have controlled the process, adding that they have set a separate table for senior citizens for encoding so that they could go home first and placed some water dispenser.

Wednesday was the third day, two days after old people were made to line up under the sun without even access to drinking water.

Contrary to what Benitez said, however, only those who make it inside the Bankerohan Gym are able to sit down. The rest are still standing outside, waiting in line under the sun.

“Ni revised na namin ang process ngayong araw. We have information officers, if may mag pa notaryo meron na dito from human rights, pag okay papapuntahin na dito sa paralegal – second to the last stage, pag okay na, binibigyan na namin ng number for encoding,” Benitez added.

“Pag okay na sa encoding, kukunan sila ng litrato at lalagyan ng docket number yung applications nila for claim, after makuha yung information from them, kukunin na yung documents tapos bibigyan namin sila ng acknowledgement receipt – patunay na na-submit na nila yung documents sa’min,” he said.

Benitez said the claims board is scheduling another set of intake operations for September and October. “Sure na sa Tagum City pero wala pang exact date. Hinihingi namin ang understanding ng general public, ginagawa naman po namin lahat para maayos lang yung proseso at ma-entertain kayo.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 07, 2014.

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