What is the republic’s ‘best interest’?
Since Wednesday, May 1, victims of torture, forced disappearances and summary executions during the dictatorial regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos should be receiving checks amounting to $1,500 (around P77,600). The amount is the third payout of the compensation due them after a Hawaii district court ruled in favor of the victims and their families in a class suit against the estate of Marcos.
The judge of the Hawaii District Court approved a compensation of $13.75 million out of the $32 million sale of four valuable paintings that were sold by Imelda Marcos’ former secretary, Vilma Bautista, who was arrested in the United States.
Robert Swift, the American lawyer who worked on the case as the claimants’ counsel since 1990, came to the Philippines and personally handed the checks to the victims or their heirs, starting with some from Butuan City on May 1.
The first two tranches of the payment were distributed in 2011 and 2013. The first tranche amounted to P43,000 in 2011 and P50,000 in 2013.
But even if the amount of the compensation is multiplied a hundredfold, it will never bring back the victims’ lost family members or loved ones back to life. It will not also replace the kind of lives they used to have, nor erase the deep pain they have suffered as victims of human rights violations during Marcos’ martial law.
Nevertheless, the Hawaii court’s decision to provide some form of reparation to victims and their families sent a powerful message about the truth of gruesome atrocities that happened during the Marcos dictatorship. This, and other painful truths about Marcos’ martial law years have been obfuscated in many ways, mostly on social and mainstream media, and even in the academe.
Some college instructors and professors here in Mindanao continue to extol the alleged good governance virtues of
the dictator, painting the dark martial law years with resplendent images of prosperity and peace.
In the first two payouts that took place while Noynoy Aquino was president, no government office raised objections to the settlement terms for the claimants.
But as soon as the announcement of the third payout was released, the Duterte administration, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, raised objections to it as “not in the best interest of the republic.”
When the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said the payouts to the martial law victims were not “in the best interest of the republic,” whose interest did it really mean?
The 6,500 victims registered in the class suit are citizens of this republic, too, and it is in their interest to get a portion of the full range of justice to be granted to them. The amount of the settlement is measly, compared to their immense suffering after they lost their loved ones to torture and summary executions.
Are the OSG and other government agencies in this administration protecting the interest of the majority of citizens of the republic, or only a few whose interests they are protecting at all costs?
Is the “best interest” of this republic that of the Marcos family’s, like Imee, who ran an expensive television advertisement even before the campaign period started? In these television ads, Imee claims to have a “solution” for all of the poor’s woes and that she has their best interest as her platform. This and her other fake claims are a load of baloney, given her and her family’s flagrant displays of opulence not only in the past but also in the present.
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