Martial law abuse victims’ scammers at it againBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A bill to compensate abuse victims of martial law with a P10-billion fund is attracting scammers yet again.
The rights group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) on Sunday warned legitimate victims of martial law to be wary of persons attempting to extract personal information from them or telling them they could help them obtain their part of the compensation for a fee.
Selda chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez aired the warning after hearing from some group members who had been approached by suspected scammers.
“We call on all martial law victims to be wary of persons asking for money to process their claims,” Enriquez said in a statement.
“We are advising everyone not to fall prey to these culprits. We have fought for justice this long. We should ensure that the compensation shall be received by the rightful recipients,” she said.
Once the compensation bill becomes law, the victims or their survivors in the case of deceased victims, would receive remuneration from a P10-billion fund, with the amount they would receive depending on the severity of the abuse they suffered.
Enriquez said two Selda members from Tarlac, who were encoding the documents of claimants in Concepcion town, were approached by a man claiming to be from the Office of the President.
The man, who identified himself as Gerry Caloza, asked for information about the victims, she said.
In Bataan, martial law victims were approached by persons claiming to belong to the “Bullion Group.”
The persons told the victims they stood to receive millions and offered to help them file claims, Enriquez said.
In a phone interview, Enriquez told the Inquirer that from way back, whenever reports about government compensation for the martial law victims came out in the media, unscrupulous persons took advantage of the news by offering to help process claims in exchange for a fee.
She said the persons usually asked for money to pay for ID cards, membership forms and transportation expenses to take care of the claims.
Selda is verifying reports that people from Marawi City were recruited to attend a Davao City seminar for martial law victims and were asked to shell out P3,000 apiece. They were allegedly told they would receive P1 million each if they attended the seminar.
Enriquez said Selda’s concerns about scammers were not baseless after eight people in 2011 were charged with fraud when they were found to be involved in attempts to cash checks made out to legitimate martial law victims.
This was after 7,526 claimants in a class suit against the Marcoses in Hawaii were awarded $1,000 each from a $10-million settlement of another case involving Marcos properties.
According to Enriquez, it was best if the martial law victims talked to organizations mentioned in the proposed law as being able to help them process their claims.
Selda is one of the human rights groups recognized in the bill as among those that may send in nominations to the compensation board. Selda led in the filing of the class suit against the Marcoses and has chapters nationwide that could help identify the victims eligible for claims, she said.
The other organizations named in the bill are Task Force Detainees of the Philippines; Free Legal Assistance Group; Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism (Mabini); and Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance. But other groups may send in nominations as well, Enriquez said.
Enriquez also reminded martial law victims that the bill to compensate them for abuses had not yet been signed into law, which means the processing for their claims could not yet begin.
President Aquino may sign the law later this month, she said, possibly during the 1986 People Power revolution anniversary.
Under the compensation bill, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, an independent and quasi-judicial body, will receive, evaluate, process and investigate the applications for monetary compensation.
It would use a point system to determine the amount of compensation that each victim would get based on their experiences.