Twenty seven long years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, a law confirming the atrocities and human rights violations under martial law is finally signed into law. The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA, which led the filing of the historic class suit by the martial law victims against Ferdinand E. Marcos in a Hawaii court, welcomes the passage of the Human Rights Violation Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
This is another victory of the Martial Law victims in their continuing struggle for justice. Through their relentless efforts, finally and officially recognized are the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who fought the dictatorship and were victims of human rights violations – summary execution, torture, enforced disappearances and all other gross forms of violations. They faced adversity, but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only theirs, but the people’s rights.
The struggle was protracted. The process was agonizing and tedious. Scores of members of the Philippine Congress, in cahoots with the Marcoses and the military who vehemently opposed the passage of the law, tried to block its passing. In some instances, they deliberately delayed the process or watered down the crafted bill.
Now, with a regime posturing as a “champion of human rights” and trying to score credits for its passage, the law was passed but mainly due to the persistent efforts of the martial law victims themselves. Tirelessly working hand-in-hand with progressive party-lists and likeminded legislators, the bill was finalized and ratified. Generally, the law is acceptable to the victims and survivors of martial law.
We take this opportunity to commend and express our gratitude to Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño, who stood with us since the filing of the bill, pursuing the most pro-victim provisions, and consistently pushing, on behalf of the victims, the legislature to finally approve the bill. We also appreciate the support of Senators Chiz Escudero and TG Guingona, and Reps. Edcel Lagman and Erin Tañada.
Here and abroad, we were supported by various peace, justice and human rights advocates in the campaign for the bill’s passage. We extend our solidarity and gratefulness to solidarity groups in the United States, Hong Kong and Switzerland who warmly supported and mobilized in the campaign for the passage of the law, as well as in helping the victims every step of the way. We also thank the members of Parliament of Switzerland as well as its mission in Geneva for lending an ear to the victims’ pleas every time we lobby for their support.
Most of all, we commend and deeply thank the members of the peace panel and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who tirelessly asserted, in the process of all peace negotiations with the Philippine government, that the victims of Martial Law should attain justice.
It is with pain and regret for us to witness the passage of this law at a time when many of our fellow victims and colleagues, who took part in the struggle against martial rule, have gone ahead of us. Also, there are still attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase in the memory of our people, the dark days of the dictatorship. There are those among the architects of martial law who remain scot-free and unpunished. The most notorious culprits have been allowed to regain their political power and influence.
Under the law, the Philippine government is obliged to recognize and give reparation to the victims of human rights violations during martial law. While all the sacrifices and heroism of the Filipino people during martial law is priceless, we see these both as an affirmation to the people who struggle for justice, and as a warning to those who will continue to impose fascism and terror upon the Filipino people.
We dedicate this small victory to all martial law martyrs and heroes who have gone before us. We will continue to honor them, as we ensure that this law shall be implemented to the best interest of the victims and the Filipino people who survived martial law.
We may be jubilant, but we continue to watch with vigilance. To fully ensure that the law will serve the rightful victims and claimants, we will try to make sure that the HRV Victims Claims Board shall be composed of individuals who, in one way or another, know and can feel with the victims and have been involved in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorial regime.
We take cognizance that SELDA is part of the recommending entities to the Claims Board. We challenge the administration to appoint nominees of SELDA despite some government officials’ bias given SELDA’s political stands.
Also, it should be ensured that those who are included in the master list of the 9,539 victims and those who will consequently file their claims are those who were genuinely part of the struggle against martial law. We should guard against unnecessary bureaucratic processes and scams which will deprive the victims of just indemnification.
We should also take the opportunity to make the younger generation learn, understand and take on the challenge of having the same daring, vigilance, militancy and commitment to justice and human rights.
It has been 40 years after martial law but human rights violations continue to be committed, and with impunity. There has not been much change except for the worse under the dispensations that succeeded the U.S.-Marcos regime. The Marcos laws and executive orders were retained by the succeeding administrations. The militarist mindset and fascist machinery remain intact especially with the continuous implementation of the US-backed counter-insurgency programs
As long as human rights violations continue, with or without martial law, we stand with the people for justice, democracy and human rights. NEVER AGAIN will we allow the enemies of the people to perpetuate the same injustices, oppression and exploitation against the majority of the Filipino people. ###
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) is an organization of former political prisoners in the Philippines. Founded on December 4, 1984, SELDA was initiated by newly-released political prisoners of the martial law period. SELDA’s primary task is to work for the release of all political prisoners and to see to it that humane treatment of those who are still in detention are complied with by the Philippine authorities. SELDA advocates justice for current and former political prisoners. It calls for the mobilisation of resources in support of political prisoners, former detainees and their families. It carries out legislative advocacy for the indemnification and rehabilitation of political prisoners. SELDA goes into partnership and builds solidarity with concerned individuals and groups for the freedom and welfare of political prisoners and all victims of tyranny.