By: F. Valencia

Justice has a Deadline, and Time is Nearly Up 1

Thirty-one years after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted, things are no better for the victims of his regime, while the dictator himself is buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. 

In the ABS-CBN News article, “Time taking its toll on martial law victims,” Gerry Lirio writes, “To date, the total claims of the martial law victims on the Marcos estate, according to American human rights lawyer Robert Swift, have ballooned to $4.3 billion based on the two favorable orders Judge Manuel Real of Hawaii issued in January 1995 and January 2011 as a result of penalties and interests earned from $1.964 billion and $353.6 million, respectively. In the January 2011 ruling alone, the court pegged the penalty at $100,000 per month.”

The cost of reparation is staggering—but it is nothing compared to the slow torture that martial law victims and their families have continued to endure in their elusive quest for justice. After all, their reparation claims aren’t just for money’s sake. It serves as the acknowledgement of their suffering, something that Marcos apologists are doing their best to erase.

“The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 was set into motion on May 12, 2014 and it will expire on May 12, 2018,” notes Regine Cabato in her CNN Philippines report. Cabato also reveals: “There were 75,537 people who applied at the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), the quasi-judicial reparations body tasked with sifting through claims and granting compensations. About 40,000 of the cases have been processed, leaving over 35,000 cases left to review before its looming deadline.”

The HRVCB was formed out of Republic Act (RA) 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. But, as Cabato points out, the law that enabled the HRVCB also restricted it.

For one, the HRVCB’s budget has a cap of P50 million per year. That budget is not nearly enough to sustain 155 employees. In fact, the Commission on Human Rights had to step in to help.

Apart from the budget, the HRVCB also faces the challenge of an impossible deadline. RA 10368 stipulates that the Board has to “complete its work within two (2) years from the effectivity of the [Implementing Rules and Regulations] promulgated by it.”

Already, the Board failed to meet their 2016 deadline. Congress extended it to 2018—but even that seems daunting. If the Board fails to meet next year’s deadline, then there’s a good change it will be considered “expired.”

If that happens, the martial law claimants will once again be thrown in limbo. Unfortunately, time is not on their side.

So, will Congress once again be kind enough to extend the deadline? It’s a confusing time in our country’s history and the answer isn’t really that clear. Maybe it never was.