On January 23, 1977, the newspaper Bulletin Today bannered this headline: “One-sided press reports scored. No violations of human rights – FM”.
Ferdinand Marcos was then vehemently denying the reports of massive and grave human rights violations perpetrated since his seizing a second term presidency by imposing martial law on September 21, 1972. Mainly documented by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), established by the Association of Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) in 1974, these violations reached the international community and the then U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Marcos used the State machinery to produce a coercive environment and to engender a culture of impunity that persist till the present.
After seven and twenty years since the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, there is finally a law which acknowledges the long-known truth held by people that there were human rights violations, such as arbitrary and illegal arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, committed by the martial law regime. It is only correct and just to recognize and memorialize all the heroes and martyrs who fought against repression and who courageously struggled for human and people’s rights.
Signing into law the Bill which compensates the victims of human rights violations during the martial law period is the right step towards ending the Marcos impunity and obtaining both justice and healing.
PAHRA commends both Congress and the Administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III for this legislative act that shatters a Marcosian myth and propaganda that there were no human rights
PAHRA, nonetheless, believes and stands that while the law gives recognition and compensation to the victims of human rights violations, it is not enough to break through and to end the impunity unleashed by Marcos. The U.N. Updated Principles in Combating Impunity enumerate some State obligations still need to be complied with:
The Right to Truth – wherein it ensures the individual’s, as well as, the victim’s families and relatives right to know the circumstances and reasons for the victim’s torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing. For this end, Benigno S. Aquino III, as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief, should order all services of the security forces to de-classify all reports and data related to the martial law period. We recommend strongly here the passage into law of the right to information. The Office of the President should also institutionalize or calendar the President’s public paying of respects to the heroes and martyrs who fought the imposition of martial law and its adverse effects on human rights.
The Right to Justice –means bringing the perpetrators of violations to account – whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings – since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims.
There will be no closure to the wounds caused by the martial law period if there is no justice.
The State obligations to institute reforms to ensure the non-recurrence of these violations include the passage of legislation criminalizing extra-judicial killings and responding to the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs). This also means the establishment and operationalization of national monitoring mechanisms.
EDSA people power ended Ferdinand E. Marcos’ one-man, martial law rule but has not completely dealt with and eliminated impunity.
PAHRA calls on and will join all people of good-will to determinedly combat impunity.
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