Rights victims in limbo


Last February, to much fanfare on the part of Congress and Malacañang, President Aquino signed into law a bill authorizing compensation of P10 billion (about $230 million) to victims of human-rights abuses by the Marcos dictatorship. For the claimants, it was a case of better late than never—the fruit of 26 years of unrelenting, often lonely, struggle not only to get the Philippine government to recognize their status as primary victims of state-sponsored violence under martial law, but also, and more importantly, to redress that injustice by way of an official government act that finally enforces some measure of restitution and punishment against the Marcoses.

Nearly six months later, not one of the claimants has received his or her share of that compensation, because Malacañang has yet to appoint the members of the board that would administer the fund. Yet again, the rights victims are being made to wait—their claims stuck in bureaucratic limbo even as their ranks continue to dwindle due to old age and the ravages of the violence they endured long ago.

And now, the government seems to want to add cruelty to its neglect of the rights victims: The Presidential Commission on Good Government is opposing the $10-million settlement that the victims’ lawyers have reportedly forged with the unnamed buyer of a valuable Claude Monet painting believed to be part of the ill-gotten wealth of Imelda Marcos, former first lady and now Ilocos Norte representative.

The well-known artwork by the French Impressionist painter, titled “Le Bassin aux Nympheas” (Water Lily Pond, 1899), was sold to the buyer in 2010 by Vilma Bautista, Imelda Marcos’ former social secretary and confidante, for $32 million. The New York-based Bautista was arrested in 2012 for attempting to sell three more Impressionist artworks from the Marcos hoard. The buyer of the Monet, who was said to have bought the painting in good faith, didn’t want to be dragged into the highly publicized case of Bautista—whose trial for art theft and tax fraud is set to start on Oct. 7 in New York—and thus agreed to enter into a settlement with the rights victims over the painting’s ownership for $10 million.

The settlement is the handiwork of Robert Swift, the same US-based lawyer who won a $2-billion award in a class action suit against the Marcos estate in 1995 on behalf of 9,539 victims of martial-law abuses. If the agreement with the Monet buyer is successfully implemented, the remaining claimants, now down to 7,500, may get another $1,000 in compensation on top of the P43,000 (the equivalent of $1,000) each of them received in 2011 under a $10-million initial settlement of the $2-billion judgment.

Two thousand dollars, or about P86,000. Is that sufficient to compensate for the rape, torture, mutilation and other horrific barbarities inflicted on thousands of men and women, among them the flower of the country’s youth, by agents and soldiers of the Marcos dictatorship? Is that recompense enough for families wracked by anguish over a parent, spouse, or child gone missing or driven into hiding in the face of government harassment, or—everyone’s nightmare in that benighted era—a loved one’s mangled body?

When President Aquino signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 during the Edsa rites last February, it was hailed as a landmark measure that recognized the heroism of those who fought and suffered under martial law. But it is a recognition that the government has been unable to deliver so far. One would think, then, that it would welcome the justness of another arrangement—such as the $10-million Monet settlement—that could take up the slack and begin compensating the victims.

But the PCGG stands in the way, insisting that the government, not the rights victims, owns the Monet painting, and thus they have no right to its proceeds—a perfectly valid legal argument, and also a callous, insensitive one. This saga of injustice has lasted nearly three decades. Whatever funds are extracted from the Marcos loot, and in whatever way—whether by formal budget allocation or through the disposal of the ill-gotten hoard—these victims deserve to finally get their due.

Until they are afforded such closure, their ordeal continues—and this country’s as well, with its collective inability, or plain unwillingness, to come to terms with its dark past.

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  • neilabarca

    Hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling ang mga tumututol sa Human Rights Victims
    Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013..

    Una; Mga oposisyon ba sila at anti-Noynoy Aquino dahil sa pinirmahan ito ni Pnoy, ilang buwan bago ang 2013 election?

    Pangalawa: Nagmamalasakit ba sila sa gubyerno ng Pilipinas at itinuturing nila ang
    kanilang mga sarili bilang mga makabayan? Gusto nilang mapunta sa gubyerno ang P10.0 billion (naipanalo ng mga abugado ng mga biktima) at mapigilan ang pagiging bangkarote ng gubyernong Aquino, maideliver ang mga basic services?

    Pangatlo: Galit ba sila sa mga aktibista, wala silang bilib sa mga aktibista, kaaway ba nila ang mga 10,000 anti-Marcos activist na biktima ng kalupitan at nakatulong sa pagpapa-alis sa pwesto si Marcos? Hindi sila naniniwala sa EDSA PEOPLE POWER Revolution na nagpabagsak sa rehiment Marcos nung dekada 80s.?.

    Pang-apat: Naniniwala sila sa pamilyang Marcos, sumusuporta sila kay Senator Bong bong Marcos? Gusto nilang hindi magalaw ang P10.0 billion at maging presidente si Bongbong sa nalalapit na 2016 Presidential alection? Hindi sila naniniwala na isang DIKTADOR si MARCOS?

    Panglima: hindi sila naniniwala sa principles ng United Nation Declaration of Human Rights at kontra sila sa mga komunista na siyang pangunahing tumutol sa diktadura?

    Panganim; naniniwala sila na ang P10.0 billion Compensation Bill sa mga Human Right victims na naipanalo ni Atty Swift sa Hawai ay walang pinagkaiba sa P50.0 billion Conditional Cash Transfer na inutang pa sa WB at ADB ni Dinky Soliman ?

    • wency

      Sa pang anim mong punto lalo na, bat kaya hindi tumututol itong mga ayaw na mabigyan ng sapat na pagkilala ang mga nagsakripisyo para sa paglaya sa panahon ni marcos, gayung ang CCT ay mas malaki at mas nagtutulak sa mga tao na maging palaasa?

  • ruiznelli

    Wow, yung mga ‘Pasaway sa Kalyeh’ sila pa babayaran!! Dapat ‘yang mga busit na yan na ‘shoot-to-kill’ na lang dati pa eh!!

    • wency

      Sa panahon na mga mamayan ay binababoy at walang karapatan noong si marcos ang namumuno, ang mga sinasabi mong pasaway din ang nagtaya ng buhay para magbago ang kalagayang pulitikal ng pilipinas. kung ano ang tinatamasa mong kalayaan ngayon, yan ay dahil sa mga sinasabi mong pasaway. mag aral ka bata…

      • ruiznelli

        Sira ulo, kitang-kita ko malaking ‘pagkakaiba’ nung panahon nuon na MAS MAGANDA at MAUNLAD, kesa ngayon Yellow Zomby!!

      • wency


  • mike8232

    the govt owns the money only to be pickpocketed by corrupt senatongs and congressmen or to be used in funding campaigns or the stupid CCT program
    or to improve Pnoy’s record tama ba Sec Abaya??

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