THE SENATE on Monday approved on third and final reading the joint resolution extending until December 2019 the availability of funds for victims of human rights violations during the martial-law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 13 was approved with 16 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and no abstention. Its counterpart measure in the House of Representatives was approved in Aug. 26.
The joint resolution seeks to extend the maintenance, availability, and release of funds deposited at the Land Bank of the Philippines. It also authorizes the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to administer the effective distribution of funds to qualified victims or their representatives.
The funds were ordered to be distributed to martial law victims by virtue of Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims and Recognition Act of 2013.
The funds are to be sourced from the P10 billion transferred to the Philippine government from the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. The Supreme Court (SC) ruled in 2003 that the P10 billion obtained by the late Mr. Marcos was “ill-gotten wealth.”
According to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), it has only approved 11,103 claimants out of more than 75,000 applicants as of May 11.
Meanwhile, its account with the LandBank has reported a balance of P792.63 million. Senator Francis G. Escudero, one of the authors of the joint resolution, said the balance would be reverted to the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) if Congress would not move for its extension.
Several reports have also indicated that many claimants have yet to encash their checks even with the issuance of a special power of attorney.
The joint resolution seeks to ensure that all legitimate claimants under RA 10368 would receive their monetary reparations. It also enjoins the Commission on Audit (CoA), the LandBank, and the BTr to coordinate with the CHR in ensuring the distribution of valid claims.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, endorsed the measure for plenary approval. — Camille A. Aguinaldo