Martial law victims in North get checks

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Victims of human rights abuse during martial law in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions received Saturday their share of a court-ordered settlement arising from a class suit filed in the United States against the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Beneficiaries from as far as Apayao and Kalinga provinces trooped to the Cordillera office of the Commission on Human Rights here to receive P50,000 from a representative of American lawyer Robert Swift, who won $7.5 million on behalf of 7,526 martial law victims in a 2011 ruling by a United States Circuit Court in Hawaii.
This is the second tranche of reparations. The first checks were distributed in 2011.
CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales led the distribution of checks.
The CHR said 31 Cordillera residents were entitled to reparation. But not everyone turned up happy.
Miguel Atumpa, a martial law victim from Tinglayan town in Kalinga, said six residents of Tinglayan were on that list, but five of them did not receive their checks in 2011.
“We all came in 2011 because we received a letter telling us that we were entitled to $1,000 from the sequestered Marcos wealth, but I was the only one who received a check,” he said.
Atumpa was accompanied by the same five Tinglayan beneficiaries. “We all received a check this time,” said Marcus Yagao, one of the five.
Estrel Dammay of Conner town in Apayao had a similar story. Dammay said she and three other town mates failed to receive their checks in 2011.
Dammay said she was the only one who returned to take part in the second distribution. “My three other village mates decided not to come today because they did not receive a letter this time. I brought their papers so I could complain on their behalf,” she said.
Roman Barsena, a claimant from Abra province, discovered that his check was included in the batch for beneficiaries in the Ilocos. Barsena had to rush down to San Fernando City in La Union Saturday to catch Swift, who was distributing checks to beneficiaries there.
Confronted with these problems, Rosales said, “We cannot do anything for those who did not get their checks during the first release.”
Rosales said the US court ruling required all of the claimants to reply to letters sent to them, which informed them about the availability of checks.
“What we can say is that there were flaws in the communication system. Some claimants did not receive the letters and, maybe, their responses were not received as well,” she said.
Atumpa said four more Tingalayan claimants—Dawadaw Dalunag, Samuel God-ay, Lyndon Atumpa and Lumbaya Gayudan—found themselves removed from the list of beneficiaries.
“We were all receiving letters in the 1980s but in the 1990s, there were no letters for them and so they were not included in [the check releases in] 2011 and today,” he said.
Rosales said the distribution of checks for Mindanao claimants had been completed. They are distributing checks to Luzon claimants this month and had scheduled the distribution in the Visayas by March before serving beneficiaries in Metro Manila.