Claiming reparation for HR violations
May 12 was the first day of submission of reparation/compensation claims by victims of human rights violations under martial law. This is provided for in Republic Act No. 10368, or “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.” President Aquino signed the law on Feb. 25, 2013, the 27th anniversary of the People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.
It took a year for the President to constitute the nine-member claims board and a few months for the board to draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that would be the basis for the processing of claims.
Reparation will be drawn from the P10 billion that the government has allotted (from recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth) for the victims. This is apart from the $2 billion (P88 billion) assigned by the Hawaii Court for the members of a class suit.
I was one of the early birds at the HRV Claims Board (HRVCB) office at Virata Hall on E. Jacinto Street, University of the Philippines Diliman. It was a nice place to be because of the huge trees that cast cooling shadows on the grounds where claimants were warmly welcomed and assigned numbers, and where they filled out forms and had their documents assessed by legal and paralegal staff in nipa-bamboo kiosks.
The claimant (victim or heir of victim) must indicate on the application form (by checking) the kind of violations suffered, and submit a narration to be notarized. There are 10 categories of violations (more on these later). One may also give or deny consent to the claims board and memorial commission to share or publish one’s story, or to list one’s name in the “Roll.”
Each claimant was led into a room inside the building where she/he came face to face with an HRVCB staffer who asked questions, encoded the data in the application form, took a photo of the claimant, and finally issued a signed acknowledgment receipt with the claimant’s name, docket number and date of filing. Written at the bottom of the receipt is: “Visit www.hrvclaimsboard.gov.ph to check the status of your application.”
The process was not a breeze, even for me who had brought a bound, 90-page personal Proof of Claim (the photocopy of what I, as a claimant in the class suit against the Marcos estate, submitted to the Hawaii Trial Court in 1993, along with 9,539 other claimants) and other documents.
I had thought that as a recognized claimant in the Hawaii suit and who had received partial compensation in 2011 and 2014, I would, like the other recognized claimants referred to in the “conclusive presumption” clause of the IRR, would just fill out the application form and go through a separate lane. But no.
Claimants covered by the “conclusive presumption” had to start from square one. I was asked to present all the originals, including an original birth certificate. My driver’s license was not good enough. Well, because the processing lawyer knew without doubt that I was who I was, the original birth certificate was waived. I had to argue that the bound documents that I was submitting were the exact same ones submitted to the Hawaii Trial Court, and that I was already covered by the “conclusive presumption” clause, etc., etc.
After some haggling, I was let go to proceed to the next step, with solicitous staff escorting, thank you. I consoled myself that all these were just part of first-day labor pains. But in my mind was: What about first-time claimants? How easy/difficult will it be for them? I understand that the board is trying to prevent the submission of fraudulent claims.
There are two general types of applicants: victims or heirs who are first-time applicants, and those under “conclusive presumption”: a) the 6,000-plus class suit members recognized by the Hawaii Court, who have received partial compensation from the $2-billion compensation package, and b) those victims who are in the roster of heroes and martyrs of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.
The Hawaii Court simply allotted uniform, equal amounts for the victims, no questions asked. But the HRV Claims Board will classify into 10 types the violations suffered. That would be the difficult part. How do you assess intensity of suffering? A claimant whose son was killed sent this text message: “To put monetary value on the suffering of the Marcos victims is adding insult to injury. If the claims board’s intention is equitable reparation through the points system, what will prevent anyone from exaggerating? How much for a blow on the head?”
I see her point. Better to have only two categories of victims: those killed/missing and those who suffered but survived. It is hard to further classify the latter. How compare one who was sexually abused with one who went on involuntary exile and suffered a nervous breakdown?
When asked to check, I checked No. 3 for torture, because there was nothing very specific about my case: prolonged torment (military interrogations, raid of my house, being seized in the night by armed military men, with a fellow journalist, the late Chit Estella, and finally a P10-million libel/harassment suit filed by a general whom I didn’t even know and which went on for several years, dropped only after 1986 People Power).
I observed first-time claimants, some in their sunset years, writing their narratives under the shade of the trees, recalling the bad years. I advise first-time claimants first spill it all out in writing at home and come prepared with everything. My heart broke for those who came with only their pain and memories. More another time.
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