4,000 Martial Law victims — about 5% of claimants — getting partial compensation in 2017

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The Claims Board assures it can process the remaining 45,000 claims by 2018, but Martial Law victims are doubtful.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The government promises to give much-awaited compensation to the thousands who suffered under the dictatorship of late President Ferdinand Marcos. 

The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRCVB) on Tuesday said it can give initial compensation to 4,000 Martial Law victims by the second quarter of 2017.

HRVCB Chairperson Lina Sarmiento told CNN Philippines the board can only give an "estimated" partial compensation because the law requires all claims to be processed first before the board can determine the actual amount to be given each claimant.

R.A. 10368, which created the HRVCB in 2013, establishes a point system, in which victims who were killed or disappeared are granted 10 points, those who were tortured or sexually abused 6-9 points, those who were detained 3-5 points, and victims of other forms of human rights violations 1-2 points.

This system guides the HRVCB in determining the amount of compensation for each claimant.

"After the final determination of the awards for all claimants, the Board shall then compute the final monetary value of one's award," the law says.

Sarmiento also said the HRVCB still has to go through other legal requirements before it can give victims tax-free reparations.

This includes the publication of a preliminary list of eligible claimants in at least two newspapers of general circulation--once a week for three consecutive weeks. Oppositions and appeals can then be filed, which the HRVCB should resolve before it can come up with a final decision.

The board on January 19 presented to President Rodrigo Duterte its plans to release initial monetary reparations to 4,000 victims.

This is around 5 percent of the total 75,730 who filed claims as kin of victims or as victims themselves. The HRVCB has processed less than half or 30,027 of the claims.

HRVCB is an independent, quasi-judicial body created by former President Benigno Aquino III to recognize Martial Law victims and provide them with compensation.

Claimants will share a fund coming from the ₱10 billion in Marcos ill-gotten wealth awarded by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. It's also the funding source for the HRVCB's operations. 

Related: Bongbong Marcos says he can’t apologize, give compensation to martial law victims

Slow processing?

The HRVCB still needs to process 45,703 claims and Martial Law victims have expressed deep concern over the board's slow processing rate.

"This snail-paced system that has been the practice of the Claims Board for the last three years which could remain unfinished until the sunset year of the Board's tenure in 2018 is victimizing the already-victimized victim," Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) Chairperson Marie-Hilao Enriquez said in a statement. 

But 15 months into its deadline, the HRVCB expressed confidence it can finish the task.

"With the expression of commitment and support by the President, we are confident that the Claims Board will be able to make partial payments and complete the task of adjudicating all the claims within the period provided by law," Sarmiento said.

"Kailangan lahat matapos by May 2018 (We need to accomplish everything by May 2018)," she added.

The number of claimants is a three-fold increase from HRVCB's expected 20,000, which is based on the Commission on Human Rights' rough estimate of Martial Law victims.

Also read: Martial Law victims: Never forget

Doubly victimized?

The HRVCB has so far approved only 9,000 of 30,000 claimants as victims of human rights violations.

SELDA fears deserving victims may have been delisted.

"We should ensure that no victim will be victimized once more by being denied of the recognition and reparation that the individual or their family deserve," Enriquez said.

But the HRVCB said it only judged applications based on the documents each claimant provided.

"Kami, evidence-based ang aming process, hindi (Our process is evidence-based, not) according to whims and caprices," Sarmiento said.

For applicants to prove they were Martial Law victims or family members of victims, the law requires them to provide one or more of the following: death certificate; arrest warrant or similar documents; certification of detention; medico-legal, autopsy or other doctor's reports; declassified documents, court records, lawyer's records, photographs and affidavit; sworn statements of witnesses; and records documenting the abuse, such as books and news clippings.

With the recognition, the HRVCB says it aims to "restore the honor and dignity" of those killed, tortured, and abused when Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 until he was ousted on February 25, 1986.

Also read: Sociologist explains: Despite father's dictatorship, why are Marcoses still popular?