Martial Law victims to bicam: Enact ‘pro-victim’ bill now

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MARTIAL Law victims held a rally outside Batasang Pambansa while the bicameral conference committee “harmonized”  the Lower House and Senate versions of the bill to indemnify victims of martial law to craft the final version into a law.

“We are here to press our senators and congressmen to stand by the bill most acceptable and reflect the interests of the majority of the victims of Martial Law,” said Marie Hilao Enriquez, whose group, SELDA,  initiated the filing of the historic class action suit against the Marcoses in the US Federal Court System in 1986 and won a favorable ruling in 1992.

SELDA stressed that members of the Bicam must consider the voices and interests of the victims embodied in the four points the organization asked to be included in the final version of the law.  The first Bicam meeting resulted into debates which the victims felt  were only moves to delay the passage of the bill,  just before the 2013 elections.

“We reiterate that victims who filed a class action suit against Marcos in Hawaii must be conclusively presumed as legitimate human rights violation victims and must be acknowledged as such so that they will not be made to once more prove their legitimacy as human rights violations victims during martial law, just like the “new claimants” who will be filing claims for the first time under Philippine law Instead of instantly casting doubts on the victims, the law should prioritize that victims need recognition and reparation or indemnification as components of justice that victims long deserved,” Enriquez said.

The group has earlier expressed disappointment on Sen. Joker Arroyo’s insistence  of a provision on disputable presumption of the martial law victims who filed and won a case vs. Marcos in Hawaii . Enriquez explained, “it is not only painful, but far more dangerous, for the victims to undergo and endure the painful and rigorous process again to prove they were indeed violated during Martial Law.”

The group also said that only considering as human rights violations victims during martial law those who “peacefully exercised their rights against the dictatorship” is clearly excluding those who resisted the violations during the white terror years and sends a very dangerous signal to the perpetrators  of human rights violations that theperpetrators can do what they like to people considered as not “peacefully” exercising their civil and political rights.  This provision also opens up a problem of who will and how will the “peaceful” exercise be determined.  Further, even the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which the Philippine government subscribes to, does not specify how the rights will be exercised.

“Why should this be an issue when the rights to take up arms in a time of tyrannical  rule are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Pushing for such a provision in a law meant to render a component of justice to martial law victims will deny such Martial Law heroes and martyrs as Emman Lacaba, Edgar Jopson, Lorena Barros, and a hundred more who have been recognized as worthy of emulation by Bantayog ng mga Bayani and most importantly, in our nation’s history,” she said.

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