Escudero sees bicam approval of human rights reparation bill next week

January 17, 2013 10:55 pm 

MANILA, Jan. 17 – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero said on Thursday he is hopeful the human rights compensation bill will be approved by the bicameral conference committee on Wednesday next week.

”I'm hopeful and confident that we will approve it on Wednesday and hopefully, ratify (in the Senate) on Wednesday afternoon,” Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said in the weekly Kapihan sa Senado media forum.

The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2012, which seeks to indemnify victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime, states that any qualified victim shall receive compensation from the state free of tax.

The amount of compensation shall be in proportion to the gravity of the violation committed.

“If a victim died or has gone missing, it receives the highest points, from 7 to 10 points. If the victim was tortured or was sexually abused depending on the evaluated gravity, I think 3 to 7 points. The amount really depends on how many claimants there are,” Escudero explained to the Senate media.

Escudero said members of the bicameral committee are still ironing out issues on claimants in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaii court ruled in favor of the claimants.

A P10-billion fund, plus accrued interest, has been set aside and appropriated to fund the claims. The amount is part of the funds transferred to the Philippine Government by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court and is now held in escrow.

“It’s a long and emotional process. It’s emotional because some members of the committee were also victims themselves. But we are getting there. We just have to settle the issue whether the Hawaii claimants shall be extended the conclusive presumption that they are victims of human rights abuses and therefore are automatically compensated or they be given the disputable presumption,” the senator said.

Escudero explained that the disputable presumption means a presumption that can only be refuted by specific controverting evidence. Conclusive presumption, on the other hand, means that any person who has secured or can secure in one’s favor a judgment or award of damages from any court in the country arising from human rights violation shall be considered conclusively as a victim without need of further proof.

Escudero said the bill provides for the creation of an independent and quasi-judicial body to be known as the Human Rights Claim Board which will determine and evaluate claims.

“Since this is a public fund, the board is subject to the auditing rules of the Commission on Audit and the government’s existing rules on public funds. We specified a time-frame for the board to finish and wrap up its mandate in two years. They shall complete their work by then,” Escudero said. (PNA)

FPV /JFM

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