MANILA, Philippines–As the country prepares to commemorate the assassination of slain opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., a group of former political prisoners said it would be an empty recollection so long as his son, President Aquino, continues to delay the grant of reparation and recognition to the martial law victims.
The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) deplored the fact that despite the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act having been signed into law back in February, it has yet to be implemented because of the President’s continued failure to constitute the claims board that is supposed to oversee the compensation process for the rights abuse victims.
Under the new law, people whose rights were violated during the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos are entitled to reparation from the state. The still-to-be-constituted Human Rights Victims Claims Board is supposed to be responsible for drafting the rules for the compensation process and evaluating claims.
“Now that another commemoration of Ninoy’s assassination is to be observed again, we can only feel insulted at how the Aquino government will throw out festivities once more, while the thousands of heroes of martial law are painfully waiting for the formation of the claims board, the first and most basic step in the implementation of the law,” Selda chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said in a statement.
Selda recognizes that Ninoy Aquino’s Aug. 21, 1983 assassination played a key role in the country’s history, serving as a catalyst for the public outrage that eventually led to the ouster of the dictator in a bloodless revolt, Enriquez said.
But there were many other Filipinos who rose up and fought against Marcos before Aquino’s death, and who also deserve to be honored and recognized, she said.
“We remember the death of Ninoy as one that might have triggered the final push to oust the dictator. But years before his assassination, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who were lesser known than Ninoy sacrificed their lives to fight against the tyrannical rule of the dictator. Like Ninoy, they deserve to be recognized, their deeds made known to a nation grateful for its heroes,” she said in a statement.
And yet, after a “long, hard, even lonely struggle,” the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Law remains on paper and has yet to be implemented, Enriquez said.
The failure to constitute the Human Rights Victims Claims Board was a “mockery” of martial law victims, she said.
Enriquez said Selda will again write President Aquino on Aug. 21 to demand that he implement the law.
“Malacañang has a lot of explaining to do, not only to the victims but to the general public, why there is so much delay in the formation of the claims board,” she said.
Selda earlier submitted its nominees to the board, being one of the organizations allowed to do so. Its nominees include martial law victims who were involved in the filing of the class suit against the Marcoses and in pursuing the enactment of a compensation law.