By Daniel Llanto
FilAm Star Correspondent
After a long wait, the victims of human rights abuses when Martial Law was imposed by the late President Ferdinand Marcos will begin to receive compensation from the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his wife Imelda recovered by the Philippine government from Swiss banks.
Under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, a total of 30,027 individuals have been processed as eligible for the cash awards out of 75,730 people who applied as victims or close relatives of victims.
The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) started handing out the money to 317 people, which constitute the first batch of 4,000 claimants.
They are the first batch of claimants based in Metro Manila who received reparation from the Duterte administration. Among the notable personalities that received the compensation were Social Welfare Sec. Jody Taguiwalo, former Rep. Neri Colmenares, Ramon Casiple, Bonifacio Ilagan, Aida Maranan, Roland Simbulan and former Sen. Orly Mercado. Mercado said he would donate his cash award to two martial law victims that he knew.
Officials of HRVCB and Land Bank of the Philippines distributed the cash cards to claimants during a ceremony held at the HRVCB office at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.
HRVCB Chair Lina Sarmiento said a total amount of PHP 300 million has been released for this purpose. “This is only symbolical – that through reparation, we are somehow able to honor them and what they did for the country, though no amount of money will really be able to compensate for the sacrifices and sufferings they went through,” Sarmiento said.
The partial compensation is set at 50 percent of the total estimated amount for each claimant. “The total estimated amount per claimant is obtained by multiplying the estimated value of one point (PHP 25,000) by the number of points awarded per claimant. The total estimated amount may still increase or decrease depending on the result of the deliberations of the remaining claims,” Sarmiento said.
Only claimants who received their copies of the resolutions and whose periods of appeal have expired will receive cash cards. The cash cards, which also function as ATM cards, can be used at any ATM of Land Bank or any Bancnet member bank.
Subsequent release of cash cards will be made on a daily basis through designated Land Bank branches. The release of cash cards regarding claims which are still subject of appeals and oppositions will be withheld until such time that these are resolved.
Sarmiento said all resolutions were sent through registered mail and the HRVCB is monitoring the delivery of the resolutions via the return cards attached to the mailed resolutions. “It must be emphasized that RA 10368 provides, as available remedies, the recognition and reparation of victims of human rights violations during the martial law period. The partial compensation received by eligible claimants is just one of the remedies provided for under the law. Apart from that, they are also entitled to non-monetary reparation to be delivered by other agencies of government,” she added.
The HRVCB is an independent, quasi-judicial body created during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to recognize Martial Law victims and provide them with compensation.
The schedule of payments for the rest of the victims based in the provinces will later be scheduled by the HRVCB.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said President Duterte supports the welfare of all victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law years. He added that Duterte had directed the HRBCV “to speed up the process of evaluating and releasing the claims of Martial Law victims.”
The claimants will receive monthly reparation payments through cash cards that will be issued to them by the Land Bank of the Philippines. Most of the initial 311 claimants were activists during the Marcos regime, who until now continue campaigning for political and social change in the country, including those who remain as political detainees.