Cash cards for martial law victims/survivors
On April 21, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) issued a notification in Filipino which, translated into English, reads: “Notice to Metro Manila residents who are among the first 4,000 eligible claimants. We wish to inform you that your Notices of Resolution (with attached resolutions) have been sent to your mailing addresses through Philpost.
“In case you have not received yours, you may get a copy from our office in Room 101, ISSI Building, Virata Hall, E. Jacinto Street, UP Diliman Campus, Quezon City.
“Only the claimant may claim his or her resolution. If you intend to come to our office, please contact us beforehand via text message or by calling 09995059737 so that we can prepare a copy of the resolution.
“The rest of the notices of resolution for the first 4,000 eligible claimants have also been sent.”
Early this month I went to the HRVCB office to pick up my Notice of Resolution as a claimant. I am among the first 4,000 eligible claimants whose names have been posted/published. There are thousands more being processed. I saw the paralegals hunched at work. Think of the 75,000 claims they were processing and the accounts of suffering they have to read. I learned that some of them were deeply affected by the traumas recounted and had to undergo some kind of processing themselves.
The notice contains a letter, the bar-coded and dry-sealed resolution which summarizes one’s case, reasons for approval, and the awarded points. Mine was very well written by the assigned ponente (five pages, single-spaced) and signed by the members of the division that processed my claim. Thank you, HRVCB for the warm welcome.
Soon the HRVCB will announce how and in what bank claimants can get the cash card which will contain the partial equivalent of the awarded points. There is yet no final cash equivalent for each point because this can only be computed after the final list of eligible claimants has been completed. For now, the claimants will receive one-half of the tentative amount equivalent to their points.
The suffering that people went through during the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship cannot be merely reduced to points. But this is provided for in Republic Act No. 10368 (“An act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes”).
The funds are from the P10 billion that came from the Marcos accounts turned over by the government of Switzerland to the Philippine government, on condition that these are given to the victims/survivors of the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship.
Note that this is different from the class suit filed by more than 9,000 victims/survivors (myself among them) that was upheld by a Hawaii court in the 1990s. The court awarded some $2 billion (about P100 billion now), but the award has come in trickles because of difficulties in tracking down the Marcos hidden wealth (cash, art collections, jewelry, properties) abroad. And the Philippine government also gets in the way, claiming that if it is Marcos ill-gotten wealth, it should go to the national coffers—a case of finders-keepers.
Here are excerpts from Redemptorist Fr. Amado Picardal’s 21-page account submitted to the HRVCB:
“While I was inside the ‘dragon room,’ I felt so helpless. I cried out to God but he seemed so distant and absent. I felt abandoned. Under the glare of a light bulb over my head, the intelligence agents continued to take turns in interrogating me and hitting my solar plexus, ears, chest and kidneys every time I refused to answer their questions. I was gasping for air every time they hit me. The pain became so unbearable that I passed out. When I regained consciousness I lost the sense of time since it was dark inside the room. I didn’t know whether it was night or day. I was hungry and thirsty. Instead of giving me water, somebody forced me to drink Tanduay rum. I became groggy and they continued to ask me who my comrades were and where they could be found. They thought that too much alcohol would loosen my tongue. Instead, I wailed like a little child.”
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