Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed a landmark law on Monday compensating human rights victims of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, 27 years after a bloodless "People Power" revolution ended his reign.
Ten billion pesos (4 million) will be distributed to potentially thousands of people whom Marcos's security forces tortured, raped or detained, as well as relatives of those who were killed, during his rule.
Speaking at a ceremony in Manila to mark the anniversary of the revolution that was led by his mother, Aquino said the law was part of his government's efforts to "right the wrongs of the past".
"We may not bring back the time stolen from martial law victims, but we can assure them of the state's recognition of their sufferings that will help bring them closer to the healing of their wounds," Aquino said.
Loretta Ann Rosales, an anti-Marcos activist who was tortured by his security forces and now heads the country's independent rights commission, said the law would finally allow all his victims to feel a sense of justice.
"The law is essential in rectifying the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship and obliges the state to give compensation to all those who suffered gross violations of their rights," Rosales told AFP.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, the chairwoman of Selda, a group which represents Marcos rights victims, also welcomed the symbolic intent behind the law but said the money was too little to have a meaningful impact.
"There are so many victims that when you divide it to everyone it will not result to much," Hilao-Enriquez said.
Hilao-Enriquez's group represents about 10,000 documented victims but she said there were many more who had not been officially registered and may now come forward, such as Muslim communities in the remote south of the country.
Under the law, a compensation board will accept and evaluate applications for reparations over the next six months. Those victims will be from when Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to the end of his rule in 1986.
The compensation will come from about 0 million the government has recovered from Swiss bank accounts that Marcos secretly maintained while he was in power.
The government has accused Marcos and his relatives of plundering up to billion and has so far recovered about billion.
After millions of people took to the streets in a military-backed protest, US-supported Marcos fled to Hawaii where he died in 1989.
After returning from exile his relatives have made a remarkable political comeback, while always denying any wrongdoing by the family.
Marcos's famously extravagant wife Imelda is now an 83-year-old congresswoman representing the family's political stronghold in a northern province.
Marcos's son and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, is a senator with public ambitions eventually to become president.
He posted a long statement on his official Facebook page in which he said he had "no problem" with compensating people for rights abuses committed between 1972 and 1986.
But Marcos said the issue of compensating the "tens of thousands" of human rights victims in the post-Marcos era had been ignored.
"That question is like an elephant in the room that some politicians, the typically glib, sanctimonious, and self-righteous, pretend not to see," he wrote, while insisting he was focused on ways to "unify our country".
MANILA, Philippines—Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Ma. Garcia Pulido-Tan has assured politicians who will run in next year’s midterm elections that she would not allow the agency to be used to persecute them or destroy their chances of winning in the elections.
In an interview, Tan allayed fears of some candidates in the local and national elections that a possible bad timing of the release of audit reports on them or their offices was personal.
“We will always be fair game because that’s the nature of our work,” Tan said. “Iyong timing, as I said, if somebody comes to us and then they report that will you look into this, of course we will do that. We can’t say, wait, you should not complaint because there is an election. That should not be the case,” she said.
Tan said the COA would always validate the complaint first and would only proceed if there was a basis.
Regarding Vice President Jejomar Binay’s earlier claim of political persecution by Heidi Mendoza, one of COA’s commissioners, Tan said the documents being cited in the media against Binay did not come from the COA.
Binay had described as “disturbing” the timing of the audit being initiated on the Makati Friendship Suites, a condotel run by the city government, on the basis of a letter sent by “concerned employees of Makati.”
He also said his office had been receiving reports of a demolition plan against him ad early as year, and that Mendoza herself was part of it.
Joey Salgado, Binay’s spokesperson, said that Mendoza has been “very vocal about her dislike for the Vice President.”
But Tan noted that the letter-complaint was furnished to many people, including the media.
“I think we receive that complaint and we started looking at it as far back as April or May last year. And it was not until late this year that it came out in the paper because the press got a copy of the same letter but it did not come from us,” Tan said.
“So I think that should be assurance enough that we don’t want to be used one way or the other. For us it’s just a job and we will do our work prudently. If there is a leakage, definitely it did not come from us,” she stressed.
Tan said she was very particular about leakage from the office although she admitted that this could not be completely controlled.
She said there was still no audit report on the Friendship Suites because it was still ongoing.
For the election period, the COA chair has laid down instructions on three audit areas that must be monitored closely, namely ghost employees, fund transfer, and election spending from public money.
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has reshuffled 16 of the 33 election officers in Metro Manila to “further guarantee the success” of the May 13 polls, an official said yesterday.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said they reshuffled their election officers because some may already be familiar with the candidates and could be influenced by them.
In Resolution 9642, the Comelec said the reassignment is “for the best interest of the commission particularly in furthering efficiency, competence, integrity and absolute impartiality within commission.”
The poll body stated in the resolution that it intends to deliver clean, honest and peaceful elections by “advancing… the competency and expertise of its personnel,” particularly its election officers.
The reshuffle will be in effect from March 1 until June 12, the end of the election period, “without prejudice to the authority of the commission en banc to effect further reassignments whenever the exigency of service so requires.”
The poll body had earlier reshuffled regional directors, provincial election supervisors and department heads at the Comelec central office in Intramuros, Manila.
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) is anticipating peaceful May 13 elections due to the decrease in the number of areas with intense political rivalries nationwide.
PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said that the National Task Force SAFE (Secure and Fair Elections) 2013 reported that there was an almost 50 percent reduction of hotly contested elective positions in various parts of the country.
Task Force SAFE said from the previous 196 hotly contested elective positions, there are now only 103 elective positions with intense political rivalries.
Purisima said intense political rivalries were the usual cause of violence during elections, and with the reduction of elective positions with intense political rivalries the police expect a decrease in poll-related violence.
The decline in elective positions with intense political rivalries could be attributed to the forging of alliances among local political clans and the retirement of local officials.
MANILA, Philippines - Ten major national parties and two major local parties are vying to be declared the dominant majority and minority party in the coming May elections.
In a resolution, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) directed the 12 competing political parties to appear on Thursday for a hearing on their petition for accreditation as dominant majority and dominant minority party.
Leading the petitions are the administration Liberal Party and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
Former administration party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat asked the Comelec to be declared the dominant minority party, while the Nationalist People’s Coalition filed a petition for accreditation to be named the major national party.
The Nationalista Party seeks to be named among the six major political parties in the coming elections.
Other petitioners include the Kusog Banyohanon, KAMBILAN, United Negros Alliance, HUGPONG, National Unity Party, Partido Abe Kapampangan and Arangkada.
The Comelec earlier asked the 10 major political parties and two major local parties to file a verified petition for accreditation.
Under the Poll Automation Law, the dominant majority and minority parties will get original copies of election returns from the Comelec.
The poll body said electronically transmitted precinct results shall also be given to the dominant majority and minority parties.
Printed copies of the election returns and certificate of canvass shall also be given to the 10 accredited major national parties and accredited major local parties.
Aside from getting copies of the election returns, those who will be declared dominant majority and minority parties are assured that their official watchers will be given priority in cramped precincts.