CHR putting together ‘Martial Law Files’

MANILA, Philippines – The government has started documenting human rights violations during the martial law years under dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The government of Switzerland and the Swiss Peace Foundation are assisting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the documentation of human rights violations during martial law. Among other things, the documentation aims to identify beneficiarie of a P10-billion compensation package being offered by the Philippine government.

CHR Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales said the assistance of the Swiss government would be valuable in determining the compensation of victims under Republic Act No. 10368. “Assuring that trustworthy evidence is available will be essential,” said Rosales.

Dubbed as the “Martial Law Files Project,” the documentation project aims at mapping the existing files, records and archives dispersed among different state and non-state organizations and institutions and ideally making these holdings available to the Claims Board, to victims intending to file a claim, and to a broader public, to the extent that this is possible while protecting the legitimate privacy claims of persons named in the records.

Rosales said Malacañang would later announce the creation of the Claims Board. “It is only now that we have a human rights law where compensation will be given to the victims of martial law violations. This involves at least 10,000 victims,” she said.

According to Swiss Ambassador Ivo Seiber, the enactment last year of RA 10368 or the Reparation and Recognition of Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Marcos Regime marks a milestone in dealing with the consequences of martial law.

Sieber said assurance that concrete evidence will be available for the implementation of the law was an aspect that was highlighted in the workshop recently conducted with the CHR. “The importance of preserving archives and records on human rights violations committed during dictatorships or wars is often underestimated or even forgotten,” Sieber said.

“Documenting atrocities and human fates is essential to allow mechanisms such as judicial investigations and prosecutions, truth commissions, reparation programs and vetting processes to be based on accurate and credible documents and evidence and therefore bring justice for individuals and reconciliation for societies,” Sieber said.

The workshop included dialogue and sharing of expertise on data collection, creation of archives and the management of data for all kinds of dealings with past mechanisms, particularly the martial law years. Rosales said the Claims Board would organize a secretariat to decide how to come up with the implementing rules and regulations.

Within 15 days, the Board is expected to come up with the IRR. Once the IRR is there, they will determine the claimants who will receive a share of the P10 billion, said Rosales. “According to the law, the claimants must be victims of martial law from August 1972 to March 1986. All those tortured, enforced disappearance and summarily executed will be given compensation,” Rosales said.

“The recording will be scientific and objective. It will help us avoid the fake claimants. All these documents will be gathered and we will be taught the parameters and guidelines to make sure that these will be accepted as evidence,” Rosales added. 

Distribution starts

Meanwhile, the CHR has started distributing compensation in the Mindanao area to victims of human-rights violations during martial law. Rosales said the distribution of P50,000 each to 7,526 human-rights victims started last Jan. 27.

“It is now ongoing in the Muslim areas of Mindanao. Prior to the distribution, we already had an agreement with concerned officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao so that security of the CHR staff together with civil society groups present in the area, are ensured,” said Rosales.

The human rights group Claimants 1081 is assisting the CHR in locating the victims of martial law under the regime of Marcos. She added that the distribution in Davao City would follow, while the beneficiaries in Luzon and the Visayas would get their compensation next month. “The distribution in the National Capital Region will be made, hopefully, in March,” she said.

The P50,000 being awarded to the victims of martial law came from the $10-million settlement over the illegal sale of the 1899 painting of French artist Claude Monet that former first lady Imelda Marcos previously owned.

Rosales said the New York District Attorney in 2010 indicted Vilma Bautista, a former assistant to Imelda Marcos, for the illegal sale of the Monet painting. Bautista was sentenced last Jan. 13 to two to six years in prison after being convicted in November of scheming to sell a $32-million Monet painting. Bautista, 75, also was ordered to pay about $3.5 million in state taxes. She was convicted of charges including conspiracy and tax fraud.

Rosales said that the P50,000 is part of the compensation provided for martial law victims based on the decision of the Hawaii District Court. The first $1,000 was awarded to the martial law victims in 2011. Earlier the martial law victims received a letter indicating the date and place where they can get the money.

Rosales likewise disclosed that representatives of victims of martial rule from the Philippines and other countries would share experiences on what they suffered. She said the discussion between countries would be documented and archived so that the future generations would be aware of that chapter in history.

The meeting will bring together participants from Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. “It is very important to archive evidences of human rights violations during that time, taking note of who were then referred to as martyrs and heroes,” Rosales stressed. She said this important chapter in history would be included in the education curriculum so that the students are informed of what happened during those darks days of martial rule.

The CHR said it has already been engaged in talks with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education for this plan to materialize.