Partial compensation from the Marcos loot
Thousands of victims-survivors and relatives of those who perished and vanished during the dark night of martial rule have each been handed their compensation checks for the second time. I received mine last Monday. A photo of that came out on page 2 of the Inquirer last Tuesday. I was wearing my “Martial Law Survivor” overshirt and holding the EastWest Bank check. Also in the photo was our lead counsel Robert Swift, smiling.
Unlike in 2011, this second distribution was much slower but surer that no fraudulent claims would get through. Many claimants’ steps have also become slower than in 2011 when they came for the first distribution. A number of them have since passed on to the Gentle Beyond—activists who were claimed by sickness, aging claimant-parents of those who had fallen in the night long ago.
Personally handing the checks was American lawyer Swift, who led close to 10,000 martial law victims-survivors in winning the class suit against the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. We hope that after this second check more would be forthcoming from discovered hidden wealth of the Marcos family. The check distribution in Metro Manila will continue until tomorrow, March 21.
In 1995 a Hawaii Court judgment set a $2-billion compensation for human rights abuse victims. Alas, the discovered Marcos wealth had not been easy to come by, no thanks to the other claimant, the Philippine government. This has changed, thanks to Republic Act No. 10368. This 2014 compensation derives from a $10-million settlement over an 1899 Monet painting previously owned by Imelda Marcos and fraudulently sold by her former secretary Vilma Bautista, who has been sentenced in New York.
The $2-billion compensation for some 7,000 claimants (down from almost 10,000) is different from the P10 billion allotted by RA 10368, “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 for other purposes.” An eight-member compensation board was recently formed to preside over the screening of claimants and the compensation.
Last Monday, there was a long line of chairs for the waiting claimants and so, as I had planned, I did interviews and listened to stories from victims-survivors. (For those born yesterday: The martial law years spanned the period 1972-1986.) Here are reminiscences from the queue.
I was surprised when two claimants told me how I had helped them during those dreadful years. Oh, now I remember, I said to Ave Enrile-Carlos, a former student activist who was detained. She and her husband now run a restaurant on Session Road in Baguio City. Yes, I said to Ed Buenaventura and his wife after he reminded me that we were together in the Friends of Slum Dwellers. Ed was detained twice for subversion. He is now a project development assistant in the Department of Agriculture.
Their reminders brought back memories of the times when, at great risk, I carried persons on the run in my small car and drove them to their hiding places. Well, one day military surveillance caught up with me… How did I become a claimant? Google “The Years of Writing Dangerously” (Sunday Inquirer Magazine). It’s also in my book “Human Face: A Journalist’s Encounters and Awakenings.”
Arrested by the Military Intelligence Security Group, Mario Cayabyab was heavily tortured and held in a maximum security cell. His hands and genitals were electrocuted. This was called “Hawaii-50.” A newspaper was shoved into his mouth. “They used telepono ng Hapon connected to a truck battery.” Because he knew how electricity worked, he knew how not to get totally fried. A black-belter, he also knew how to take punches in the abdomen.
Then Lt. Rolando Abadilla was among his torturers, said Cayabyab, 66. “My abdominal area was black and blue.” When Cayabyab began to tear up, we paused for a while. I kept my own tears in check. He is grateful to activist Maring Feria and her brother Justice Jose Feria, who offered financial help after his release.
“I was referred to as the first torture baby. My case was the only one that won in a military tribunal. Juan T. David was my lawyer.”
There was Roger Arienda, 80, the fiery radio broadcaster (“Bomba Arienda”) who spent years in military camps and finally in the National Bilibid Prison among hardened criminals. His crime: inciting to rebellion. After 10 years, Marcos granted him amnesty. Arienda, now a pastor, said he was pleased that the corrupt “untouchables are now being exposed.”
Walter Dacumos was arrested during a rally. He spoke about how then 2Lt. Panfilo Lacson stepped on his chest. “Inapakan ako sa dibdib. I was given the water cure. I was in detention with Ricky Lee (who became a famous scriptwriter). He vomited blood and so did I.” He remembered then Lt. Leandro Mendoza as among those who…
Dacumos, 68, said he suffered from a collapsed lung, depression and tremors. And what will he do with his P50,000? “I will buy myself a good bed,” he said softly without batting an eyelash.
There was Romeo Mendoza, 62, who was detained in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Bagong Diwa for almost three years. He now works as a taxi driver. Benjamin Ediquila, 62, said he was arrested by Isafp (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) on suspicion that he was a communist. His captors gave him the water cure. He was released with the help of religious sisters and priests.
Many former political detainees thanked the Task Force Detainees of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines for looking after them and their families. Yes, the Church as “a field hospital,” as Pope Francis would want it.
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