By Camille A. Aguinaldo and
Arjay L. Balinbin Reporters
MALACAÑANG ON Thursday announced that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved Joint Resolution No. 04 by Congress, extending until Dec. 31 this year the maintenance, availability, and release of funds intended for human rights-abuse victims during martial law.
Also on Thursday, Opposition Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said Filipinos should not “easily believe” President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s claim that the Marcoses’ wealth being ill-gotten remained unproven.
On Feb. 22, Mr. Duterte signed the joint resolution, following complaints “from several approved claimants’ relatives” that they have not yet received their compensations.
Republic Act (RA) No. 10368, otherwise known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, provides for an institutionalized mechanism on how victims of human rights violations during the Marcos era will be compensated.
Section 7 of the law states that the amount of P10 billion plus accrued interest which form part of the funds transferred to the Philippine government by virtue of the 1997 Order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, adjudged by the Philippine Supreme Court as Marcos ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favor of the Philippines, shall be the principal source of funds for victims of human rights abuses
The law stipulates a period wherein the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) shall complete its work, which is two years from the effectivity of the Implementing Rules and Regulations.
To extend the effectivity of RA No. 10368 from May 12, 2014, to May 12, 2018, RA No. 10766 was enacted into law on April 19, 2016.
According to the congressional resolution, the HRVCB had approved and recognized a total of 11, 103 legitimate claimants out of more that 75,000 applicants and was able to completely resolve 6,737 appeals on May 6, 2018, six days before the board’s deadline.
“However, there have been reports from several approved claimants’ relatives that they were not able to encash the checks even with the issuance of Special Power of Attorney. Many of the claimants are concerned of the time constraint to process matters relating to the distribution of monetary claims until 11 August 2018,” read the joint resolution, which also noted that checks issued by the HRVCB for the claimants were valid only up to three months from issuance.
The resolution also authorizes the Bureau of Treasury and the Land Bank of the Philippines to release the funds. The Commission on Human Rights is tasked to administer the effective distribution of the funds.
Mr. Pangilinan, in his statement, said, “A lot of the statements of the President is not true and among these were his claims that it was still not proven that the Marcoses are thieves. Let us not easily believe whatever he’s saying because he is used to issu(ing) statements that are made up.”
In a speech last Tuesday, Mr. Duterte expressed doubts over claims that the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. amassed ill-gotten wealth during his 20-year rule.
For her part, Senator Nancy S. Binay-Angeles said at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum, “The courts have already decided the cases that pertain to the ill-gotten wealth, so that’s the best evidence. Then human rights victims received compensation. Isn’t that proof enough?”
Mr. Pangilinan also cited the Supreme Court decision ordering the forfeiture of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth in favor of the government. Back in 2003, the Supreme Court (SC) declared $356 million deposited by the Marcoses in a Swiss bank as ill-gotten.
A portion of the Marcos wealth has also been ruled by the SC and the Sandiganbayan as ill-gotten, stemming from civil forfeiture cases filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The remaining assets are still being contested in the courts or have already been returned to the Marcoses.
Mr. Pangilinan also cited a Sandiganbayan decision last November holding Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda R. Marcos guilty of graft over her involvement in the bank transfer of some $200 million in public funds to Swiss foundations. Ms. Marcos plans to appeal her graft case before the Supreme Court.
“Doon lang tayo sa totoo (Let us stick to the truth),” Mr. Pangilinan said.