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Midnight replacements roil human rights claims board

/ 07:30 AM December 15, 2017

After adjudicating 93 percent of some 75,000 cases filed by human rights violations victims and five months before its mandate ends in May 2018, the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) was surprised to learn this week that President Duterte had replaced two of its members.

The midnight replacements have claimants worrying other board members might be removed without due process.

The board was created by law to identify and compensate victims of human rights violations under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

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Claimants worried

One of them, Trinidad Herrera, a 76-year-old former political detainee, torture victim and head of Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee at Arestado, worried that thousands of claims might be compromised.

“No more! I hope there will be no more replacements,” said Herrera, the feisty head of Zone One Tondo Organization during the Marcos dictatorship.

 

President’s prerogative

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said it was the President’s prerogative to replace the board officials and tried to ease concerns that this would disrupt its work.

Roque said Mr. Duterte does not need to give any reason for replacing two board members—Dexter Calizar and Jacqueline Mejia.

Calizar was replaced by Nasser Pangandaman Jr., a former mayor of Masiu, Lanao del Sur, and son of a former agrarian reform secretary. His appointment was signed on Nov. 27.

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Mejia was replaced by Ricardo Moldez, who has been a lawyer for the past 45 years, whose appointment was dated Dec. 8.

No new appointments

“We can’t rebuke his wisdom in replacing the two members of the claims board,” Roque told reporters.

“Having said that, I have it on good authority now, I verified from [Presidential Management Staff] that there are no new appointments forthcoming for the claims board,” he added.

Former President Benigno Aquino III appointed the other HRVCB members—Sarmiento, Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballho, Byron D. Bocar, Glenda Litong, Aurora Corazon A. Parong and Erlinda N. Senturias.

Created by Republic Act No. 10368, known as the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, the HRVCB is “an independent quasijudicial body charged to, among others, receive, evaluate, investigate and adjudicate claims for reparation and/or recognition for human rights violations victims during the martial law period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.”

Heroism, sacrifices

The law was the state’s recognition of “the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of gross human rights violations during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos as well as to affirm their preemptory and nonderogable right to receive remedy.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of RA 10368, declined to comment on the replacements.

The law allocated P10 billion to compensate the victims. The money came from Marcos’ secret Swiss bank accounts.—WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

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