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ON THE RATIFICATION OF THE COMPENSATION BILL AS PRIORITY IN THE AGENDA OF THE SPECIAL SESSION February 19, 2007

Posted by s511 in Human Rights, Marcos Wealth, Press Statements.
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The Palace Proclamation 1235 asserts that a number of very important bills that have failed ratification this 13th Congress can no longer afford to wait for the 14th Congress. Going through the legislative grind could take another three tedious years which becomes such a waste of time.

We could not agree more. It becomes a crime to the people when bills that had been drafted with their active and steadfast participation and lobby in the past nine years should once again be shoved and shelved without rhyme or reason.

In this case, we refer to the human rights compensation bill for martial law victims, filed as early as the 11th Congress in 1998 but failed to pass the 11th and 12th Congresses. In the 13th Congress we reached a bicameral conference agreement and signed the Conference Report. It was ratified by the Senate but failed to get House ratification before the
Congress adjourned last February 8, 2007.

The reasons for ratification cannot be spelled more clearly.

ð The transfer of the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos to the Philippine coffers was anchored on two considerations by the Swiss Supreme Court in a 1997 ruling: 1) that the money would be judged with finality as ill-gotten and 2) that a fair share would be given the martial law victims for compensation. The first has been decided in 2003 when the Philippine Supreme Court ruled with finality that the $500+ million Marcos money (now $683 million) transferred from the Swiss banks was ill-gotten. The second consideration can be realized with the passage of the bill into law.

ð With the passage of the bill into law, as pointed out by the President herself in a meeting in Malacanang last 2004, the act would be a significant step forward in the process of healing the wounds of martial rule and would in fact manifest the spirit of EDSA 1 which we shall celebrate on 24 and 25 of February.

ð Like the repeal of the death penalty law, the compensation law will be heralded by the international human rights and diplomatic community as testimony to the continuing struggle to inculcate human rights as a policy in Philippine legislation and is much needed in enhancing our position as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

ð With the United Nations Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Philip Alston, in the Philippines today, the passage of the bill could not be more relevant than ever in the difficult effort for government to address gross violations of human rights taking place today.

ð And most important, the Philippines as a member of the United Nations and a party to international human rights instruments on human rights, has a legal a moral obligation to compensate the thousands of victims of human rights violations of martial rule as a major step towards healing the wounds of the past and restoring their human dignity and humanity as persons and people.

We urge the President and the Speaker of the House to prioritize the ratification of the human rights compensation bill in the special session that convenes on 19 and 20 of February. It is the best gift we can give the thousands of victims, many of whom offered their lives in the struggle against dictatorial rule and the restoration of human rights and democracy. On 24 and 25 February, we shall once again commemorate the dreams of EDSA which, up to now remain unresolved. This is one chance that opens to us once more. Let us not fail them this time.

Etta P. Rosales
Akbayan Representative

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