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Palace firm on claims board head

Ex-police Director Lina Sarmiento, head of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Sunday stood firmly behind President Aquino’s highly criticized decision to appoint a former police official to head the board tasked with facilitating the distribution of the P10-billion compensation for victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said he had yet to discuss with the President former Sen. Joker Arroyo’s appeal to reconsider the appointment of ex-police Director Lina Sarmiento as head of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.

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But Coloma maintained that “as the appointing authority, the President has a thorough understanding and appreciation of the mandate of the board.”

Personal experience

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He noted that Aquino “personally experienced the hardships and difficulties imposed by the dictatorship on victims of human rights violations, including his own family.”

The Palace threw its support behind the Sarmiento board, saying it expected the panel to “fulfill its duty during a short period.”

Coloma cited the “sunset provision” under Republic Act No. 10368, which gives the claims board a “limited period of two years, from the effectivity of the implementing rules and regulations, within which to complete its work.”

Brazen travesty

“Hence, it is imperative that the board be allowed to begin its task as soon as possible in order that it may fully comply with its mandate within the required time period,” he said.

Arroyo, a longtime human rights lawyer, described the appointment of a former general as a “brazen travesty.”

“The appointment of a general from the uniformed services to preside as chair over the adjudication of the claims for reparation and recognition of the human rights victims is a stinging repudiation of our 15 years of struggle for freedom and democracy, which culminated in the national incandescence at Edsa,” he said in an “open letter” to the President.

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The letter was published in the Inquirer on Feb. 23.

“It is a brazen travesty of the historical legacy of the human rights movement that was integral to the people’s crusade against oppression during the Marcos regime,” Arroyo said.

He argued that a member of the claims board “must have an ingrained stake in the campaign against human rights violations during the period 1972 to 1986, aside from having a profound appreciation of what human rights violations were during that time.”

He said that Sarmiento’s “credentials do not meet the minimum standards, albeit exacting, set under Republic Act No. 10368.”

In Aquino’s hands

“Mr. President, in your hands lies the final and real vindication for those who suffered indignities in their fight for freedom, but have been consigned to irrelevance by contemporary history’s tendency toward historical amnesia,” said the former senator, the first executive secretary of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

“We appeal for help to nurture our nation’s sense of history. The unsung heroes deserve the long-overdue recognition of a grateful nation.”

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Joker Arroyo writes open letter to President Aquino

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TAGS: Appointments, Human rights, Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, Lina Sarmiento, Martial Law Victims
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