In contrast to the Philippines, commissions of inquiry or truth and reconciliation commissions have been established in countries recovering from civil war, such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia; or those emerging from decades of oppression under apartheid, like in the case of South Africa.
The UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council created numerous commissions of inquiry at the international level to document and investigate rights violations of international humanitarian law in various states. These bodies have, to varying degrees, enabled the countries concerned to move on from difficult periods in their history and rebuild themselves, or in the countries where conflict persists, to at least establish an accurate record of past and ongoing abuses, and to provide leads to investigators for eventual prosecutions.
In 1994, a US court in the case of Hilao v. Estate of Marcos (Hilao) found the estate of President Marcos liable for torture, enforced disappearances and summary executions during the martial law era, resulting in a landmark jury award totalling around $2 billion or P90 billion. This decision was affirmed on appeal.
Republic Act No. 10368, otherwise known as the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013,” was enacted in February 2013, providing the mechanism through which more than P10 billion accrued interest will be distributed to victims of human rights violations committed during martial law.
This law lays down a conclusive presumption that the nearly 10,000 class action Hilao plaintiffs and those recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation are victims. A Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board is established which can grant individuals the status of victims eligible for compensation. The law also mandates the creation, under the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, of a compendium of the suffering endured by the victims. This commission is to also coordinate with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to ensure that school curricula incorporate lessons on martial law abuses and their victims.
Record of abuses
One hopes that the various initiatives detailed above succeed in compiling an accurate and publicly accessible historical record despite the passage of time and the fading of memories. In addition to documenting victims’ suffering, this record should highlight the efforts of the brave men and women such as Voltaire who had spoken out against tyranny and oppression in spite of the grave risks their activism posed.
This record should be integrated into school curricula in a thoughtful manner, ensuring that future generations take the lessons learned from such record to heart. It is only with such a record and awareness of its contents that misinformation regarding the purportedly idyllic conditions prevalent during the Marcos regime can be effectively dispelled.
The Philippines must learn from the mistakes of the past, and not simply attempt to forget and repress them like bad memories. Only by fully acknowledging this dark chapter in our history can we hope to avoid subjecting ourselves anew to such oppression in the name of peace and order, and to become a truly great, prosperous, and democratic nation. - Rappler.com
Raymond Sandoval is a trial lawyer in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands. He was previously a legal officer for three and a half years in Trial Chambers of both the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha.
The views expressed in this article are of the author alone in his personal capacity, and do not in any way represent the views of the International Criminal Court or of the Office of the Prosecutor.