Victims of Philippines dictator Marcos up in arms

Anger over appointment of feared police general
Victims of Philippines dictator Marcos up in arms

Martial law victims gather in front of the Supreme Court building in Manila to support the filing of the petition. (Photo courtesy of Selda)

Victims of martial law abuses committed during the 20-year rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos filed a petition with the Supreme Court Tuesday calling on it to overturn the controversial appointment of a police general as head of a human rights claims board.

They say Lina Castillo Sarmiento was a member of the dreaded Philippine Constabulary, a now defunct national law enforcement body many regard as a symbol of Marcos’ oppression.

"By appointing a former police general to head the Human Rights Claims Board, the president is practically exonerating the entire system that perpetrated the abuses, justified their occurrence, and concealed them with a veneer of impunity," the petition said.

President Benigno Aquino earlier this month named Sarmiento, a two-star police general, as head of the nine-member human rights claims body. It was established to compensate some 10,000 rights abuse victims.

“Letting a martial law relic head the Human Rights Victims Claims Board is a betrayal of that purpose,” said Satur Ocampo, a former political prisoner.

"We want to mark it in our history that never again shall we allow perpetrators of human rights violations go unpunished," Ocampo said.

"We shall exhaust any legal remedy available so that justice may be served," he added.

The Philippines on Tuesday marked the 28th anniversary of the "people power" uprising that ousted Marcos and swept former president Corazon Aquino, the mother of the incumbent president, into power.  

Aquino defended Sarmiento’s appointment, saying she has tackled human rights issues before.

"She has the skill, she has the physical energy, she has the drive, she has the right direction to be able to accomplish the job," Aquino told a press briefing on Tuesday.

The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board is charged with evaluating reparation claims and recognition of abuses under Marcos.

Financing will come from a US$224-million fund recovered from the assets of the former dictator.

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