Akbayan: Marcos money still inaccessible to martial law victims
Militant group Akbayan said Friday that the special fund of around P10 billion allotted for victims of human rights abuse during the Marcos regime is intact but remains inaccessible due to "legislative inertia." (kuha mula sa: www.akbayan.org)
Akbayan Chair Emeritus and former Rep. Loreta Ann "Etta" Rosales said the special fund, which came from a portion of the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his cronies that had been recovered, remains inaccessible because of the failure of Congress to enact the Human Rights Compensation bill.
Rosales said she hopes Congress will fast-track the enactment of House Bill 922 filed by Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia "Rissa" Hontiveros. "I hope that they would make the passage of the bill a birthday gift to all human rights victims during the martial law," Rosales said as she celebrated her 68th birthday Thursday.
Rosales said the officer-in charge of the Bureau of Treasury informed her through a letter dated June 22, 2007 about the availability of the amount.
"The Bureau of Treasury assured us that the money is deposited in a special account separate from the General Fund, and it is in fact earning interest. However, the BOT said that no amount has been earmarked for the compensation of Marcos victims due to the absence of a law providing for such an allocation," Rosales said.
Rosales criticized President Arroyo and her allies for "dragging their feet instead of hastening the bill’s approval."
She said the President, Speaker Jose de Venecia and former House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles promised to prioritize the bill during the opening of the 14th Congress. She added that Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales have said that the money should be delivered to the Marcos victims.
"This delay is undermining the social justice value of a measure that rightfully demands accountability from the State for its past mistakes. The immediate passage of the bill is even made more important by the escalation of extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances in the country. The bill's enactment would help end the sense of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators from the military and from the government," she said.
Rosales threatened to bring the matter to the United Nations Human Rights Council. She said that political will should be exercised to assure the enactment of the bill. She said Akbayan will be compelled to look at concrete steps to ensure the passage of the bill. (mula sa: www.jonasfoundation.org / UN Human Rights Council.)
"It is embarrassing that as a member of the UNHRC, we are remiss in our obligation to realize our human rights commitments: one, our international commitment that a share of the money that was transferred to us from Swiss accounts must be given the martial law victims, once this is proven ill-gotten through due process," she said.
"And two, our commitment to legislate this international obligation and constitutional mandate to provide compensation to victims of human rights violations, in this case, the martial law victims. We are seriously studying the possibility of elevating the matter to the Council if concrete steps are not taken immediately to enact the compensation bill."