A Summary of the Accomplishments of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB)
Section 2. Declaration of Policy — Section 11 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines declares that the State values the dignity of every human, person and guarantees full respect for human rights. Pursuant to this declared policy, Section 12 of Article III of the Constitution prohibits the use of torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will and mandates the compensation and rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices and their families.By virtue of Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution adopting generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, the Philippines adheres to international human rights laws and conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which imposes on each State party the obligation to enact domestic legislation to give effect to the rights recognized therein and to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms have been violated shall have an effective remedy, even if the violation is committed by persons acting in an official capacity. In fact, the right to a remedy is itself guaranteed under existing human rights treaties and/or customary international law, being peremptory in character (jus cogens) and as such has been recognized as non-derogable.
The Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is an unprecedented legislation in the Philippines and Asia, with the Philippine State acknowledging its legal and moral obligation for the gross human rights violations committed by the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos during martial law from 21 September 1972 to 25 February 1986 and one month before and after the period. RA 10368 declares that the State recognizes the heroism and sufferings of all Filipinos and provides reparation to the victims and o/or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations and damages they suffered under the Marcos regime. The law recognized that there were civil, political and economic rights that were violated by the authoritarian regime.
The law allocated ten billion pesos (Php 10,000,000,000.00) plus accrued interest for reparation to victims of gross human rights violations during that period and for the establishment of a memorial museum and library.
The funds came from Marcos’ Swiss deposits which were transferred to the government of the Philippines by virtue of the December 10, 1997 Order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, adjudged by the Supreme Court of the Philippines as final and executory in Republic vs. Sandiganbayan on July 15, 2003 (G.R. No. 152154) as Marcos ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines. The law created the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) and the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission (HRVVMC).
The HRVCB was tasked to receive, evaluate, investigate, and adjudicate claims by human rights violations victims (HRVVs) for reparation and/or recognition. The Board was mandated to determine the eligibility of claims, the nature and extent of the human rights violation committed, award points as appropriate then distribute monetary reparation to eligible claimants. The HRVCB may also motu proprio recognize victims of human rights violations, outside of those who filed claims. It was also mandated to determine non-monetary reparations which will be delivered by existing government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Education (DEpEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
The nine (9) member Board headed by Lina Sarmiento as Chairperson immediately set to work after they were appointed by President Benigno Aquino and took oath of office on 14 February 2014. Other members of the Board included six lawyers, namely Wilfred Asis, Galuasch Ballaho, Byron Bocar, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Jacqueline Mejia and Glenda Litong, and two medical doctors, namely Aurora Corazon A. Parong and Erlinda N. Senturias. Gascon was replaced by Dexter Calizar when he was appointed as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in July 2015. In December 2017, the composition of the Board was disturbed when President Duterte appointed Nasser Pangandaman and Ricardo Moldez to replace Calizar and Mejia, respectively.