February 24, 2014
PRESIDENT BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III
President, Republic of the PHILIPPINES
New Executive Bldg., Malacañang Palace Compound
1000 J.P. Laurel Sr. St., San Miguel, Manila
Dear Mr. President,
Our warm greetings to you!
We welcome your move in constituting the HR Victims’ Board of Claims that
will finally set the implementation of R.A. 10368 that you signed almost a
year ago from now.
However, we are quite dismayed and outraged that the provisions of the law
as regards the qualification of the members of the Board of Claims were
not diligently followed when you appointed former PNP General Lina
Castillo-Sarmiento. Not only does she not, we think, fit the
qualifications of the member of the Board of Claims, much less the
chairmanship of the said body; but she comes from the institution which
the majority of the victims pinpoint as one of those that committed grave
abuses against their persons and properties during the dictatorship years
and even up to now.
That is why, today, the eve of the anniversary of People Power I that
catapulted your mother, former President Corazon Aquino; and yes, even
you; we are here at the foot of the historic Mendiola bridge AGAIN, EVEN
IN OUR SENIOR YEARS, to express our protest at your appointment of former
PNP General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as head of the Victims’ Claims Board.
Please understand that her presence in the said body will not inspire
respect or confidence in the hearts of the victims whose applications,
with all their personal details, the Victims’ Claims Board will process.
There are members of your yellow army who may have been victimized during
martial law but are now your administration’s apologists and scoff at our
righteous indignation against your action and consider it as something we
are afraid of because maybe upon Gen. Sarmiento’s use of her investigative
skills, fake claimants will be found out among our ranks. We tell these
advisers of yours to perish such thoughts because our years as being human
rights defenders investigating human rights violations since martial law
up to now have led us to the conclusion that there are very few among our
police forces with such skills and that many of them are being used by
elements of the AFP to whitewash the cases by bungling the investigations.
In the same breath that you ask us to give General Sarmiento a chance, we
ask you TO PLEASE GIVE THE VICTIMS A CHANCE. For far too long have the
government security forces including the PNP, lorded it over our political
landscape, we think that it is time for the victims to be heard in matters
that concern them. R.A.10368 or the Victims’ Reparation and Recognition
Act of 2013 has been fought for by the victims for so long; we think that
their voices must be heard in the law’s implementation.
Thank you very much for your time and we hope that we, the remaining
victims of martial law, who fought very hard a very lonely, oftentimes,
thankless battle to let the dictatorship account for its sins against the
Filipino people, can be listened to at this time. Mr. President, please be
informed that as long as we are alive, we will always struggle for the
Filipinos’ collective and democratic rights. On behalf of the National
Executive Board of SELDA, I remain,
Very sincerely yours,
(Sgd) Marie Hilao Enriquez
RECALL PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY RELIC GEN. LINA
SARMIENTO FROM THE MARTIAL LAW VICTIMS CLAIMS BOARD
24 February 2014
We denounce the appointment of Gen. Sarmiento as chair of the Human Rights
Victims Claims Board (HRVCB). After prolonging the formation of the HRVCB
for almost a year, the Aquino government made a historical affront to the
victims by appointing a former member of the Philippine Constabulary, the
forerunner of the PNP, as head of the Claims Board. It is not only her
credentials as former PC officer that is an anathema to the historic
struggle against martial law, but her zero track records of any
involvement in asserting human rights nor any understanding or knowledge
ofthe plights and struggles of martial law victims during and after the
dark days of Marcos Dictatorship.
On 13 February 2014, Malacañang announced the formation of the HRVCB a
year after the passage of RA 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation
and Recognition Act of 2013.
Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III appointed Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, a
retired 2-star general of the Philippine National Police as chair of the
HRVCB. To complete the members of the board, also appointed are Jose Luis
Martin Gascon, Byron Bocar, Aurora Parong, Galuasch Ballaho, Jacqueline
Mejia, Glenda Litong, Wilfred Asis and Erlinda Senturias.
The PC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are the main apparatuses of
the Marcos dictatorship in implementing the worst of human rights abuses
under Martial Law. It is the PC and the AFP that dispersed rallies,
“salvaged,” abducted, tortured, arrested and detained thousands of Martial
Law activists. Her presence in the Claims Board does not command respect
nor confidence in the hearts of the Martial Law victims.
In appointing Gen. Sarmiento, the Aquino government junks altogether the
state’s admission of the atrocities and repression used against the
Filipino people, the supposed objective of the law. Instead, it promotes
into position those who violated the people’s human rights. This is no
different from the Pres. Aquino’s appointment of military officials to
higher positions under his presidency.
BS Aquino’s Claims Board does not represent the victims of Martial Law.
The Aquino government completely disregarded the provision in the law
which underlines that members of the HRVCB should have deep knowledge,
capacity and experience in defending human rights. Not a single nominee of
SELDA, most of them widely known as Martial Law victims and human rights
champions, was appointed to the Claims Board. Much to our dismay, CHR
Chairperson Etta Rosales and DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima even came to the
rescue by saying said that Gen. Sarmiento is qualified for the job.
However the Aquino government justifies it, the appointment of Gen.
Sarmiento goes way beyond the issue of qualifications. It is a travesty of
justice. It is a conscious effort to discredit and dishonour Martial Law
victims. The Aquino government, which has banked on the people’s clamor
for justice and change, is trying to push the people’s struggle for
justice farther in the sidelines. The appointment of a PC relic to head
the claims board is not only considered a grievous insult to the struggle
against martial law but a shameless denial of the ideals in asserting
freedom and democracy that was highlighted during the first Edsa People
Power in 1986.
With its brandishing of human rights violators in the military and the
appointment of Gen. Sarmiento, the people who fought the dictatorship
cannot expect anything more from the current administration. It is rather
just to continue to fight for justice. SELDA demands the immediate recall
to Sarmiento’s appointment.
SELDA has formed the People’s Claims Board (PCB).This will be the primary
body to stand for the victims of Martial Law. It will ensure that all who
suffered atrocities during the Marcos dictatorship shall be recognized and
indemnified. The PCB will also ensure that RA 10368 will be implemented.
It will formulate an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which will
be submitted to the HRVCB as basis of the law’s implementation.
The PCB will continue to assert that, based on conclusive presumption, the
2,013 Martial Law victims that were delisted (who were part of the 9,539
members of the class suit against the Marcoses filed in Hawaii in 1986)
and thosewho will step forward to make themselves recognized will be
rightfully recognized and indemnified.
The PCB is composed of individuals actively in defense of human rights,
and were victims themselves. They are Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo; SELDA
chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez; SELDA vice-chairperson Bonifacio Ilagan;
former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza; University of the
Philippines Prof. Judy Taguiwalo; Dr. Edelina dela Paz; Atty. Kit
Enriquez, Atty. Marcos Risonarand Atty. Dominador Lagare, Sr.
Martial law victims in the regions of Southern Mindanao, Bicol and Panay
launched also similar protest actions to express their grievances on the
formation of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
SELDA will continue to fight for justice for the victims of human rights
violations.As long as the perpetrators are in power, and the Aquino
government continues to implement the same policy of extrajudicial
killings, abduction and enforced disappearances, illegal arrest and
detention, torture and the wanton use of martial law tactics against the
struggling people, we will continue to stand and assert for justice. ###
Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson, 0917-5616800
Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator, 0917-5965859