The signing of Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 by President Aquino is a welcome relic for the 27th commemoration of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ ouster from power. This legislation is a piece for jubilation though not necessarily a gust of fresh air.
The statute will not compensate for the sacrifices of the several hundreds of martyrs who fought the dictatorship, most of them through systematic patterns of torture, in the process losing their lives or the use of their limbs.
It does not, will not and can never pay for the peace of mind that escapes them as they close their eyes in sleep or remembrance, and for the families dismembered for a cause they believed in and lived out. What they can see and recall, several long years later—though till now more of the same—are the anguish and the pain they had to endure at the hands of the vilest and most cruel persecutors of their time.
The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is very important, even if belated, because it is a three-step process toward transforming an otherwise moribund society.
First, society recognizes the martyrdom of the martyrs and heroes. The statute memorializes their heroic deeds beyond rhetoric. Society pays tribute where honor is really due and demanded. If properly implemented, the law becomes the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the plaques of appreciation several times over.
Second, the statute stands as a stark and grisly reminder of the evils that plagued the people whom the martyrs stood for. It cries a thousand rivers for what could very well have been forgotten by this time—the rapacity, corruption and abuses characterizing the Marcos regime. It is a testament to the truth and a counterfoil for those who are perverting history through their perjured and fairy tales of great courage and selflessness.
Third, hopefully, this legislation stakes out a warning to those who, posing as leaders, have no reason at all for existing but just to steal, violate the peoples’ rights and trust, and slave for foreign interests.
The fight is not over with the enactment of RA 10368. It is just the beginning. For starters, the President’s signing of the law should not have been used for partisan political purposes for this year’s midterm elections. It should have been opened to as many of the martyrs as the Liwasang Bonifacio can accommodate.
Next, the government is hard-pressed to make the budget for its implementation readily available. Again, it ought not to follow the route of releasing pork barrel. Then the process for qualifying must be transparent and open. It should avoid the bureaucratic shenanigans that this government is known to have succumbed to.
The experience with the open-pit SMI-Xstrata mining project is just so fresh to ignore.
This law is a belated, but certainly not diminished, expression of gratitude to and for the victims of martial law, and can never ever be over the hill. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) is not just casting a curious eye over this statute; NUPL is giving the law its full attention.
The NUPL shall closely monitor the implementation of the Human Rights Victim Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. It will not allow any government to toy with, much less disparage, this endeavor to bring justice to our martyrs and the people for whom they laid their lives.
And it will continue to be out there to join the people’s battle cry: Never Again! Indeed, never, ever again.
—EDRE U. OLALIA
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers