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Victory at last for Marcos martial law victims

Money seized from ex-dictator to be used for compensation

Victory at last for Marcos martial law victims
President Benigno Aquino signs the law (Photo by Gil Nartea)
Joe Torres, Manila

February 25, 2013

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President Benigno Aquino signed legislation on Monday that will pave the way for compensation for victims of martial law, 27 years after the fall of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"I signed [this law] to recognize the suffering that many victims of martial law underwent," the president said.

Aquino signed the "Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013" before hundreds of people at the "people power" monument in Quezon City during anniversary celebrations marking the uprising that ousted Marcos in 1986.

Under the law, P10 billion (US$246 million) from Marcos' wealth will be used to pay martial law victims.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972, which lasted until 1981 supposedly to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of a communist takeover.

It resulted in human rights abuses by the military, such as the use of torture to extract information from suspected rebels.

Victims of atrocities and human rights violations welcomed the new legislation, describing it as "another victory for martial law victims in their continuing struggle for justice."

Marie Hilao-Enriquez of SELDA, an organization of former political detainees, asked for victims who have since passed away to be remembered. it is with pain and regret we witness the passage of this law at a time when many of our fellow victims and colleagues have gone ahead of us," she said.

She added that the government has "finally and officially recognized the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who fought the dictatorship."

Akbayan, a political party of former activists, said the signing of the law signals the "end of the lies and fiction" peddled by the "unrepentant" family of Marcos.

Spokesman Barry Gutierrez said the law is an important policy tool to counter and even end the attempts of the Marcos camp to revise history and "whitewash the atrocities of the dictatorship."

He said the law is the only existing legal document that directly points to the crimes of the Marcos dictatorship.

"The law, without a shred of doubt, aptly puts the blame for human rights abuses on Marcos," Gutierrez said.

The armed forces, blamed for most of the human rights abuses, said it "fully supports" compensation for victims.

"We believe this law will allow us to move forward as a nation, without forgetting the sacrifices and heroism of our people who bravely fought for our country’s democracy," a military spokesman said.

"We should all learn from the mistakes of the past to prevent the negative part of our history from repeating itself.

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