Philippines to compensate Marcos era survivors | Asia Pacific

Philippines to compensate Marcos era survivors

Philippines to compensate Marcos era survivors

Updated 25 February 2013, 22:06 AEDT

After a campaign spanning over two decades, thousands of people in the Philippines who suffered under the Marcos dictatorship will be compensated under a 244-million dollar programme.

President Benigno Aquino signed the landmark document in Manila, 27 years after the 'People Power' revolution toppled Ferdinand Marcos.

The compensation will be part of the 600-million dollars the Philippine government recovered from Swiss Bank accounts held by the late dictator.

SELDA is an organisation that was instrumental in fighting for survivors' rights.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson, SELDA, Society of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and Arrest, in Manila

HILAO-ENRIQUEZ: First of all, it recognises that Marcos martial law trampled on the rights of so many Filipinos. Second, that there have been so many Filipinos who rose to fight for their rights during those dark years. So that is a meaningful action for us - and also, we'd like to at least through this law, attain a modicum of justice, in that we would like to make accountable the Marcos for their sins against the Filipino people, including that of having raided or robbed the national treasury.

LAM: For those who have suffered under the Marcos era, how will this law go on to help them?

HILAO-ENRIQUEZ: In the law, it is provided that a Memorial Museum or an Honour Roll for the Victims of Martial Law will be made. There is also a compensatory portion of the law that says that those who suffered torture, or victims of disappearances or summary executions, or those who've been forced to be exiled from their land, will receive monetary compensation from the law. Ordinary people, ordinary Filipinos who even if they were poor, since then, up to now, have been fighting for their rights.

LAM: Presumably the process will be a long and difficult one. Has the government indicated how this system, this process of compensation might be carried out?

HILAO-ENRIQUEZ: The law provides for the establishment of a Victims' Claims Board, where the victims can file their claims. There are nine members of that Claims Board, three of whom are lawyers with ten years experience of being human rights lawyers, and then six who are non-lawyers - people with extensive experience during martial law and other work as human rights activists. This Board will draw up the implementing rules and regulations and within two months, it will call for people who're qualified to file their claims, within six months. And the work of the whole Claims Board must be finished within two years.

LAM: You have been fighting for the past two decades to get justice for the survivors and the victims - do you have a rough idea how many people might come forward for compensation?

HILAO-ENRIQUEZ: You know, when Marcos was toppled from power, our organisation did a rough research on the number of victims of illegal arrests and detentions under the fourteen years of Marcos martial law. And we counted around 120-thousand people who were incarcerated during that period. So if you add on the number of people who were killed, or disappeared, I think it (the total) will be around 200-thousand.

LAM: The ten billion pesos the government has set aside, roughly translated to 244 million US dollars - that is meant to be distributed amongst the estimated 200-thousand people you speak of?

HILAO-ENRIQUEZ: Ya, that's what I understand. But I think more than the monetary compensation, the one important thing for us is the recognition that there have been people who fought during those dark years of martial law. And to us, that is very important, because right now, even the teaching of history in our education system is not correct. This one (law) is a correction of history. We are very conscious of this, because there have been attempts by the Marcoses, to erase that dark mark of the Marcoses and revised the history of the Filiipino people.

That's what I've been telling the Senate, all our institutions. I said, "Had it not been for us, being in the streets, fighting for our rights, you guys would not be there, in your seats now, in Congress, or in the Senate, enjoying this democracy!"

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