[Blueboard] Marcos Human Rights Victims

polsci at admu.edu.ph polsci at admu.edu.ph
Thu Oct 2 14:11:18 PHT 2003

Marcos Human Rights Victims: Promise, Fulfillment and Challenge
Ricardo Sunga III
Department of Political Science

Compensation can never fully restore the losses that victims of human rights 
violations suffer. Still,
compensation can serve an important purpose.  As an
enforcement mechanism, compensation calls attention to
the primacy of human rights and helps discourage
violations.  House Bill No. 4535 entitled “An Act
Providing Compensation to the Victims of Human Rights
Violations During the Marcos Regime and for Other
Purposes,” a bill presently the object of much
attention, aims to carry out the right to
compensation.  Careful study of the bill shows how
it is a study of promise and fulfillment at the same
time a challenge to the right to compensation.

House Bill No. 4535 enables victims of human rights
violations of the Marcos regime to receive
compensation and declares 10 billion pesos as the
total amount of compensation that may be awarded
pursuant to the bill. A victim is supposed to execute
a detailed sworn statement, accompanied by
photographs, letters, death certificates, pleadings
and other judicial or quasi-judicial documents,
newspaper or videotaped accounts, or materials
including corroborative statements of witnesses,
narrating the circumstances of the human rights
violation. The 9539 persons named as class suit
plaintiffs and direct action plaintiffs who won in the
human rights litigation against the estate of
Ferdinand Marcos before the United States District
Court in the State of Hawaii in a decision now final
and executory are conclusively declared presumed human
rights violations victims entitled to compensation.  
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights and the
Philippine Commission on Good Government are mandated
to implement the provisions of the bill in
coordination with organizations of victims of human
rights violations or their representatives.

The importance of the bill has to do with the right
that it seeks to carry out.  Under international law,
the Philippines should ensure that human rights
victims have, among other things, fair and adequate
compensation, including the means for as full
rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death
of the victim as a result of human rights violations,
his or her dependents shall be entitled to
compensation (Articles 13 and 14 of the Convention
against Torture; Article 11 of the Declaration on the
Protection against Torture; and Paragraphs 35 and 36
of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners). The 1987 Philippine Constitution similarly
imposes penal and civil sanctions for violation of the
right against torture or similar practices (Article
III, Section 12[4]); and provides compensation to and
rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar
practices and their families (Id.).

In the Philippines, compensation can be secured
administratively through the Board of Claims under
Republic Act No. 7309 and the Philippine Commission on
Human Rights (CHR) under CHR Resolution No. A96-060 of
10 September 1996. A problem, however, is the
limitation on the amounts awarded by way of
compensation. The amounts, not exceeding ten
thousand pesos in any case, are neither adequate nor
appreciative of the gravity of human rights
violations.  It is here where House Bill No. 4535 can
fill the void and can become not only a promise, but
also a fulfillment.  Indeed, the victims of human
rights violations ought to receive more than what the
Board of Claims and Commission on Human Rights
presently give.  

There are, however, areas of concern in the bill
deserving close examination.  These include: 

-        The benefit of the compensation is given only to
victims of human rights violations of the Marcos
regime. Sadly, victims of other regimes do not receive
the benefit.
-        The definition of human rights violations victims is
limited to Filipino citizens, even though human rights
attach by virtue of a person's humanity and not
-        Only civil and political rights are declared human
rights for which compensation can be awarded in cases
of violations. Economic, social and cultural rights as
human rights are disregarded.
-        As any sum received by a victim under the bill is
“without prejudice to the receipt of any other sum by
the HRV (human rights violation) victim from any
person other than the Republic in any case involving a
human rights violation as defined,” the danger of
double compensation is real.
-        Lacking is an administrative procedure to process
claims for compensation in a manner that is both
expeditious and respectful of due process.

If anything, the areas of concern serve as a challenge
to the right to compensation. They do not diminish the
importance of the bill, a measure that deserves
support.  Indeed, in human rights violations,
something has been taken from the victims.  It must be
restored.  Though there may well never be full
restoration, there has to be some effort toward it. 
For all that can be said about it, compensation is a
start.  It is a measure that can and ought to pave the
way to other measures.  Always, creativity and
imaginativeness have been the order of the day.  The
life and dignity at stake in every case demands
nothing less.


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