Families of Martial Law victims urge Senate to pass bill compensating them for atrocities

Families of victims of martial law hold a rally in front of the Senate, asking the chamber to approve a bill that will compensate them for atrocities of the Marcos regime. (Jamin Verde/InterAksyon.com)

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Families of victims of Martial Law atrocities led by a human rights group urged the Senate on Monday to pass a compensation bill now pending in one of its committees. 

"We have lobbied to our legislators even protested at the steps of the House of Representatives and the Senate demanding that the bill to indemnify victims of Martial Law be finally enacted into law. The Lower House passed its version of the indemnification bill, House Bill 5990, on March 21. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version, Senate Bill 2615, is still at the committee...level,” Ronniel Clavor, national coordinator of Samahan ng ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya.

However, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero debunked Clavor’s claim that Senate Bill 2615 is still pending at the committee. He said that the committee report is scheduled for plenary debate. The committee is still waiting for inputs about the report from Senator Joker Arroyo. 

"Senator Arroyo wanted to make revision and reviews on the report before sending the bill for plenary debates," said Escudero, whose late father Salvador, served as Agriculture Minister of President Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos placed the entire country under Martial Law on September 21, 1972. Among those who implemented military rule was Marcos' defense minister and now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“We are finished in the Committee but still waiting for the inputs of Senator Joker Arroyo. Ipinasa ko iyon sa last congress, we approved in on third reading but the House did not,” Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights said.

Appeal from a victim's son

Meanwhile, Ronnie Manalo, 49, of Capas, Tarlac appealed to the Senate to immediately pass the bill to indemnify his family, including other families and survivors of the human right violations during the Marcos dictatorship.

“Walo po kaming kaanak ng biktima ng Martial law na nandito. Ngayon, 49 years old na ako, wala pang katarungan hanggang ngayon, wala pa simula nang mapatay ang aking ama noong June 24, 1970 sa San Rafael, Tarlac,” Manalo said.

When he was six years old, his father, Romulo was allegedly killed by armed men after attending a farmer’s meeting in a sitio in San Rafael, Tarlac on June 24,1970.

“Napatay po ang aking ama na si Romulo Manalo sa isang masaker sa San Rafael, Tarlac noong June 24, 1970. Sabi nila papunta sila sa meeting, noong pag-uwi, hinarang sila ng mga may baril na military,” Manalo said. (My father, Romulo Manalo, was killed in a massacre in San Rafael, Tarlac on June 24, 1970. He left to attend a meeting but on the way home, he was blocked by armed military men.)

“Humihingi po kami ng hustiya at katarungan sa panukalang batas na ito. Pinatay po ang aking ama noong anim na taong gulang pa lamang ako, kaya ngayon nandito ako upang humingi ng hustisya at katarungan,” Manalo concluded. (My father was killed when I was just six years old which is why I'm here seeking justice.)

Legislation is needed to allot part of sequestered funds from the Marcoses' wealth for the victims of Martial Law because the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides that all sequestered assets from the Marcos family should be spent for land reform.

In 1995, the Federal Court of Hawaii found Marcos guilty of grave human-rights violations in a class suit filed by Selda and awarded $2 billion in compensatory damages to the victims.

There were 9,539 complainants in the class suit against the Marcoses.

Three years later, the Swiss government transferred $640 million to the Philippine government. The Philippine Supreme Court ordered its transfer to the national treasury in 2003.

Marcos hands-off on the bill

For his part, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., said he will not either participate nor vote on the Compensation Bill since it involves his family in the suit.

“Again, lahat ng compensation on human rights and their legal action for the compensation is now on the hands of the national government. As I said before, all cases on human rights victims including compensation, we don’t appear in court. We are not the party anymore, binitiwan na namin. Whatever the court's decision, it is now with the human rights victims and the national government,” Marcos explained.

“I have to refuse to participate in the deliberation of the bill because it involves my family. So hindi naman tama na boboto ako, one way of another,” he said. 

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