Hints and Symbols

The compensation we are owed

/ 05:06 AM September 24, 2018

To put it bluntly, the government owes my family money. For my father, around half a million pesos for an unjust and prolonged incarceration after a student rally; for an uncle injured by the police, slightly less. This is much less than what the government owes a family friend, whose brother was murdered.

It sounds callous, even mercenary, to talk about monetary compensation for time lost, for the disappeared and the wounded, but this is apparently the best the government can do in addressing human rights violations committed during martial law under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Amnesty International, in a statement released this week, said 70,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,200 were killed. A total of 75,749 claims for reparation were processed, and of these, 11,103 names were listed as being eligible for compensation.


It’s as good a time as any to remember what we’re entitled to under Republic Act No. 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The compensation follows a point system: The highest amount of monetary compensation is awarded to cases of enforced disappearance and killing. Torture ranks slightly lower on the scale, and below that, arbitrary detention and other violations.

Apart from nonmonetary compensation such as services provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, RA 10368 also provides for the creation of a museum in honor of martial law


Of the compensations, the museum is probably the most meaningful. It’s less about the money, more about recognition and posterity. It’s this very recognition that’s being called into question by recent events.

This month four years ago thousands were lining up to file for reparation, relying not on mere hearsay and not solely on personal accounts, but on documents, photos, letters, articles — all the evidence the claimants could get their hands on.

The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board has since released its list of approved claimants and completed operations in May 2018. Shouldn’t this mean that a certain question in history was answered?

While no apologies were issued from guilty parties in the manner of Germany apologizing for the Holocaust, shouldn’t the reparation itself mean that the offenses were justly acknowledged by our government and its offices, and should then be immune to revisionism?

Apparently not, because even a former Senate president who affixed his signature on RA 10368 would have us believe otherwise.

Former defense minister and “architect” of martial law Juan Ponce Enrile, whose name is borne by the document acknowledging the “Deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations and damages” suffered by Filipinos under the Marcos regime, sat in a cozy tête-à-tête last week with the son of the dictator and, in not so many words, told us that these didn’t happen.

Call it semantics, call it selective memory; call it senility even, as Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said wryly. Enrile’s outlandish claims are easily verified, too transparent to be believed, but still cruel and offensive, and fodder for those who would seek to rehabilitate the image of the Marcos offspring. The Palace’s silence on the matter, when it could have defended those that the government is legally bound to compensate, speaks volumes as well.


It’s 2018 and the discussion on martial law continues to devolve into a he said, she said affair; what should be objective fact is faced with propaganda and the modern-day paid troll. One recalls an address of Marcos himself in 1977, where he reduced so much violence to a mere footnote, that there were “to our lasting regret a number of violations of the rights of detainees…”

Do we still dare to hope for the Museum on Martial Law victims—a clear, unequivocal memorial of suffering? Yes, and hopefully no further umbrage will stop the efforts of the commissions involved in its creation. With the risk of sounding flippant, I speak for my family and perhaps some others when I say that the government can keep its money. Truth and recognition would be worth so much more.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Hints and Symbols, Juan Ponce Enrile, kay rivera, Marcos martial law
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