Fact check: Previous budgets did have provision for Martial Law museum

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Fact check: Previous budgets did have provision for Martial Law museum
A diorama of ‘Fall of Brutal,’ the winning design entry for the martial law museum, is on display during the awarding ceremony at the National Museum on Wednesday.
Marc Jayson Cayabyab

MANILA, Philippines — Budgets prepared by the executive branch from 2017 to 2020 did have a special provision allotting trust receipts from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses to build a museum dedicated to memorializing Martial Law’s victims, contrary to a claim by the Department of Budget and Management.

CLAIM: The DBM said that the special provision “was not part of the national expenditure program … even in the past years.”

RATING: This is misleading.

FACTS: All National Expenditure Programs prepared by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte except for its last two spending plans contained this special provision.

What the DBM said

In a statement on Thursday, the DBM said that the special provision that was brought up by the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission during budget deliberations in the House of Representatives are “all adjustments introduced by Congress.”

“It was not part of the national expenditure program submitted by the Department of Budget and Management even in the past years,” it said.

What it left out

That particular special provision for the use of the trust fund for the establishment of a Martial Law museum had indeed been absent in NEPs submitted by the executive branch since 2021. 

However, it is not entirely true that such a provision “was not part” of proposed budgets “even in the past years.”

The National Expenditure Program is the budget draft the executive branch submits to Congress which eventually becomes the basis for the proposed national budget before it becomes the General Appropriations Act. 

From 2017 to 2020, budget documents showed the NEPs transmitted to the House of Representatives actually did contain a special provision stating that the accrued interest on the P10 billion fund of the now-defunct Human Rights Victims Claims Board sourced from the Marcos loot “shall be used for the establishment, restoration, preservation and conservation of the memorial, museum, library, and compendium in honor of the human rights violation victims during the Marcos regime.”

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This special provision only disappeared in the 2021 and 2022 NEPs, but these spending plans still contained a line item for the “establishment, restoration, preservation of the memorial/museum/library/compendium.”

Essential context

HRVVMC executive director Carmelo Victor Crisanto said Thursday during budget deliberations at the House that without the special provision, the Martial Law museum might just turn into a “white elephant” due to a lack of funding.

“We do have as of the moment P287 million … which we can still release before the end of the year if we can actually bid out the construction for the museum starting October,” Crisanto said.

“But if there is no special provision, then it may turn out to be a white elephant since no funds will be allotted for 2023.”

Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 mandates the creation of a memorial, museum, or library “in honor and in memory of the victims of human rights violations.” This should be funded at least P500 million from the accrued interest of the P10 billion Marcos loot.

The DBM said, however, that since the funding for the museum is categorized as “trust receipts,” this is still available to the HRVVMC, which was established by the 2013 law.

“Of the P381 million released to them in 2021, only P127 million was actually utilized, thus, leaving a balance of P254 million, which is still in their account as of September 14, 2022 per the Landbank of the Philippines,” the DBM said.

It added: “Since the said amount is a trust, then it is available until fully utilized subject to budgeting, accounting and auditing rules and regulations." 

Why does this matter?

The Marcoses have managed to make a return to power nearly four decades since they were ousted through a series of military-backed popular protests which became known as the People Power Revolution.

Although they deny this, they are accused of whitewashing their patriarch’s brutal and plunderous regime through a coordinated campaign largely waged on social media that culminated in the election of his son and namesake to Malacañang.

Critics are wary that the return of a Marcos to the presidential palace may lead to Filipinos forgetting the atrocities committed during his father’s rule — a fear shared by Crisanto.

“Importante po ito dahil ang isang bayan na nakakalimot sa nakaraan ay hindi makakatahak ng magandang kinabukasan,” he said.

(This is important because a nation that forgets the past is one that will not trek to a good future.)

reviewed by Kristine Joy Patag and Franco Luna 

This story is supported by the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections and an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here. Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected].

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