Senate approves extension for human rights claims board
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – With 14 affirmative votes, no negative vote and an abstention, the Senate yesterday approved on third and final reading the measure that extends the life of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) that processes compensation for victims of martial law under then president Ferdinand Marcos.

President Aquino created the claims board to process applications for indemnification and non-monetary recognition of the victims.

Only Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile abstained from the approval of Senate Bill 3153, which was sponsored before the plenary by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

It amended section 29 of Republic Act 10368, which seeks to provide reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime and the documentation of these violations.

This gives the board another two years to process applications for human rights compensation and recognition.

Pimentel noted that the HRVCB was created on Feb. 25, 2013 to provide reparation for the human rights victims during martial law.

Under Section 29 of the law, the board was given a period of two years from promulgation of its implementing rules and regulations – or from May 12, 2014 to May 12, 2016 – to complete its work.

Pimentel said he sought for extension of the life of the board after the claimants ballooned to about 75,000.

While the number of claimants was initially estimated at only 20,000, the board actually received 75,730 applications for the reparation and/or recognition of human rights victims.

He said the board would need two more years to process all the applications it received since 2014.

“As of Nov. 30, 2015, the Board had deliberated on about 11,071 or about 14.61 percent of the claims or applications it has received. It would be impossible for the Board to complete the deliberation of the remaining 64,659 applications by May 12, 2016,” Pimentel explained.

He said it would still not be possible to settle all the remaining claims, with nine members handling 7,184 resolutions each.

“Each of the claims needs to be thoroughly deliberated upon in order to judiciously resolve the legitimate claims and to investigate and dispose of the fraudulent ones,” Pimentel said.

Since the board received about 378 percent more applications than what was projected by Congress, it is only fair that the life of the board be extended to enable the HRVCB to fulfill its mandate of recognizing the victims and making reparations for rights violations during the Marcos regime, Pimentel added.

Victims disappointed

Victims of human-rights abuse during martial law have expressed disappointment over the extension of the term of board members, saying that with this development many of them might not receive reparation at all.

“Extending their term, without any guarantee that they will accomplish their task, is like prolonging the agony… many might not receive compensation and justice they have been fighting for all their lives,” said the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda).

The victims and their surviving relatives held a picket at the House of Representatives yesterday to protest House Bill 6024 seeking to provide pensions for members of the claims board and a two-year extension of their term.

Selda opposed the provisions in the amendment providing lump sum retirement benefits and a monthly pension to members of the claims board, which shall be deducted from the P10 billion allotted for the indemnification of martial law victims. The provision had been dropped in the proposed amendment.

Bonifacio Ilagan, vice-chairman of Selda who said he was tortured during the Marcos dictatorship, noted that while their group recognizes the large number of victims who applied for reparation, the extension merely serves to secure the tenure of Aquino-appointed officials and reduce the funds allocated for the victims of martial law.

House Bill 6024, filed by the Akbayan party-list, was approved last week to amend Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act. The amendment effectively delayed the compensation until 2018. – With Rhodina Villanueva

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