House approves bill extending term of Martial Law victims Claims Board

The House of Representatives passed a two-year term extension for the Martial Law Victims Claims Board to ensure that adjudication of all Martial Law claims applications will be duly accomplished and fully resolved.
“It proposes to extend the life term of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) until May 2018, in response to the sudden upsurge in recognition and reparation claims applications. This gives the Board sufficient time to resolve all claims and finally bring justice to the victims of human rights abuses during the Martial Law, especially those who are in their final years of their life,” said Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, principal author of the bill.
“We can’t let the hopes of the victims and their families with pending claims applications, and who have waited for years to get the justice, recognition and reparation they deserve, become blighted due to the deadline,” he added.
As of December 2015, the Board has deliberated on about 11,071, or about 14.61%, of the total claims received. This means, there are still 64, 450 claims applications pending adjudication.
“Prior to the enactment of RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act, the number of applications was estimated at 20, 000, which involved those covered by the damages suit filed before the District Court of Hawaii against former President Ferdinand Marcos’ violation of the US Alien Tort Statute for flagrant human rights violations (Cesar Hilao et al., v. The Estate of Ferdinand Marcos).  The timeline, the resources, personnel and budget allocations necessary for its implementation were determined accordingly,” Gutierrez said.
Since the start of filing until May 2015, however, the number of applications skyrocketed to 75, 530, which means the Board, through its three Divisions, has to simultaneously evaluate 316 cases per Division per week, or almost four times more than what was initially projected.
“With its current available resources and personnel at its disposal, it is clearly impossible for the Board to fully adjudicate all cases by its initial target completion date,” Gutierrez said.
“Forcing the Board to finish its backlog of claims in four months as some are insisting, given its current situation, we are concerned that this preference for speed and quantity, instead of quality, in the evaluation, investigation and adjudication of claims potentially risks incorrect decisions and erroneous reparation claims,” he emphasized.
“By extending the Board’s term, we assure the victims with pending claims that they will receive the recognition they deserve while making certain that all claims are judiciously resolved and fraudulent ones are fully investigated and duly disposed of,” Gutierrez concluded.
The approved bill was co-authored by Gutierrez’ fellow Akbayan Rep. Angie Katoh and District 6, Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte.
The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board was created by virtue of R.A. No. 10368, signed into law by President Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III on February 25, 2013. The law states that the Philippines acknowledges the heroism and sacrifices of those who suffered abuses by the authoritarian regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos and it is the state’s obligation to recognize them and provide reparations.
The principal source of funds for the implementation of RA 10368 is the P10B plus accrued interest which form part of the funds transferred to the government of the Republic of the Philippines from Switzerland by virtue of an Order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. This was adjudged by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in 2003 as final and executory in Republic vs. Sandiganbayan (G.R. No. 152154) as Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines.###