Reparation is recognition
It is true. Unspeakable horrors happened during the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship more than 30 years ago. Let no one weave a contrary tale.
The summary killings of human beings. The involuntary disappearances. The arbitrary arrests and detention. The rape, torture and mutilation. The massacres. The forcible seizure and destruction of properties. The uprooting of families. The suppression of freedom of speech and of the press. These happened.
Call it a historic Monday, the 8th of May 2017. On that day, the Philippine government released partial monetary reparation to the first 4,000 (of the tens of thousands) who filed claims with the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB). This is provided for in Republic Act No. 10368, signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2013, “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 other purposes.”
The funds (P10 billion) will come from a Marcos hidden deposit returned by the Swiss government.
It is partial reparation because the adjudication process of all claims has not been completed and the total monetary reparation for each claimant has yet to be computed and finalized. President Duterte wants a speedier process. But it would be good for him to know that the HRVCB paralegals and lawyers working on the bloody cases are themselves being vicariously traumatized.
I do not want to dwell on the point system as provided for in RA 10368 because it quantifies and somewhat diminishes the sufferings of the victims.
But may I note that the almost 7,000 claimants in the Hawaii class action suit (Ferdinand E. Marcos Human Rights Litigation, MDL No. 840) have been awarded $2 billion and are getting equal shares (so far in trickles, though) whenever a hidden Marcos stash (cash, art, real property, etc.) is discovered and successfully claimed. But this groundbreaking, world-class suit against a dictator and plunderer was altogether a different procedure.
Last Monday, many of us strode into the HRVCB offices with brisk steps and wildly beating hearts, but a good many—mostly parents of the deceased and the disappeared—walked in with slow, feeble steps. A few were in wheelchairs.
The release of Land Bank cash cards to the victims-survivors would have been a cause for merriment (the HRVCB served a filling merienda) but the mood in the hall was far from party-like. Conversations were mostly serious, thoughtful, intimate. But warm greetings were aplenty.
Suddenly before me was Trining Herrera, who headed the Zone One Tondo Organization (or Zoto) and was a firebrand in those days—a thorn in Marcos’ side. I had not seen Trining in decades and I could sense that the years have slowed her down a lot.
Trining was tortured while in detention. I was with a group of human rights workers and nuns who regularly attended the military hearing against the military officer (I remember the name) accused of torturing her. It was a test case, sort of, and Trining lost. She was on the run after that, and at one time I drove her to a hiding place in the Malabon-Navotas area. I was steady behind the wheel because on the front seat beside me was a Good Shepherd nun (either Sr. Angge Sanchez or Sr. Joan Salamanca).
A conversation around our table was about reparation and recognition: that with the monetary reparation comes recognition that there was suffering inflicted—and endured. But also material to this recognition is the building of the memorial museum where many of the accounts and proofs of tyrannical rule will be displayed and, even more important, where the bravery of Filipinos who fought and fell in the night as well as those who survived, albeit with scars, will be enshrined. Tarry not, National Historical Commission of the Philippines and Commission on Human Rights.
The horrors of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship is not fiction. Let no one weave a tale of denial, like the attempt to deny Hitler’s holocaust that sent millions of Jews to their deaths in Europe during World War II, or to deny that humans landed on the moon in 1969.
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