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10 September 2012  


We fully support House Resolution No. 2608 filed by Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao. It serves as a timely reminder to us all that on the 40 th anniversary of the imposition of martial law on 21 September 1972, there is a strong and urgent need to educate the people, especially our youth, about what actually happened during those dark years of our history. Widespread and massive human rights violations, corruption and economic plunder and assault on our democratic institutions victimized our people, our economy and our democracy.

We support this initiative as this would help in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The Marcos dictatorship was marked by unparalleled human rights violations. No less than an institutional teaching of its history is needed to remind the people of the need to safeguard their rights against systemic abuses and to fend off attempts to curtail their rights in the future.

Historical truth is a powerful weapon in this regard. As explained in the Resolution, martial law caused the arrest, detention, torture, enforced disappearance and killing of thousands of Filipinos. This fact is well documented and has been judicially validated in a court of law in the United States where, in 1992, the US District Court of Hawaii found the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos guilty of gross and systematic human rights violations of the Filipino people and adjudged him liable to pay damages of around $2 billion to 9,539 class suit and individual plaintiffs. Last year, the Commission on Human Rights assisted in the distribution of checks amounting to $10 million in partial satisfaction of the judgment. The victims continue their quest for justice by pursuing cases both here and abroad to enforce the Hawaii decision against assets of the Marcos estate.

Compensation for the victims of human rights violations during martial law is also the subject matter of a separate legislative process. The long-pending bill in Congress would grant compensation as a matter of state responsibility from Marcos money in the amount of around $540 million that was returned by the Swiss government to the Philippine government in 1998. That money was transferred under two conditions. First, that a competent Philippine court adjudges it as ill-gotten wealth. This has already been done by the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court. Second, that a portion of this money be given to the victims as compensation. This, Congress still has to do through the passage of the compensation bill that would appropriate P10B for this purpose.

The $540 million returned by Switzerland to the Philippines is just a portion of the Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth recovered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Marcos is the only President in Philippine history with the dubious record of having a government office established with the mandate and task of locating and recovering his ill-gotten wealth.

It is also a matter of historical record that during martial law, our fundamental democratic rights and freedoms were curtailed and violated and our democratic institutions assaulted and trampled upon. We continue to suffer the consequences today.

In sum, the historical truth to be taught our youth through HR No. 2608 is simple: “Martial law was bad for the “health” of the Filipino people, bad for the wealth of the Filipino nation and bad for the country’s democratic institutions.” #


Commission on Human Rights