PCGG backs moves to compensate victims of Martial Law

April 13, 2010 10:05 pm 

By Hannibal C. Talete

MANILA, April 13 — Commisoner Ricardo Abcede of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on Tuesday said the commission fully supports moves to compensate the victims of Martial Law.

Abcede dismissed allegations of the lawyer of human rights victims during the Martial Law period that the commission was blocking efforts to make payments to the victims.

“Victims of human rights violations during martial law should be compensated,” said Abcede, when asked to comment on lawyer Robert Swift’s comments that the PCGG’s actions “prevented the victims and their lawyers from collecting” on a U.S. court’s decision granting compensation to the victims.

“It is the mandate of the PCGG to go after all assets that the Marcoses have stolen from the Filipino people. For their part, and in their effort to compensate themselves, the human rights victims have themselves taken legal steps to “sequester” certain assets, particularly those located abroad, such that every now and then the government and the human rights victims find themselves fighting over one and the same property or fund,” Abcede said.

Swift is the lead counsel of Claimants 1081, a group of human rights victims during martial law.

Abcede also said the Commission was in a bind since the law creating the PCGG specifically mandated that all recovered ill-gotten wealth be used for the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“Let me emphasize that the law creating the PCGG says that all, meaning one hundred percent, of recovered ill-gotten wealth, whether from the Marcoses or from their cronies or dummies, should go to the CARP. The PCGG, therefore, is powerless to compensate human rights victims of the Marcos regime, it cannot give one peso to them without violating the law,” Abcede said.

To ensure that the victims will get payments from the recovered ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, the official said Congress should pass a law to that effect.

“A special law that will authorize payment of victims should be passed. Such a bill has been pending in the legislature, certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” he said.

Abcede also clarified that the government and the human rights victims did not see eye-to-eye on the issue, adding that the bone of contention only revolved around PCGG’s insistence that what had been stolen from the Filipino people should be returned by foreign governments to the Filipino people, not to any particular group of private claimants.

“Strictly speaking, there is no enmity between the government or the PCGG on the one hand, and the human rights victims on the other hand. The PCGG surely cannot be faulted for doing its mandate to recover stolen assets or monies, wherever these may be hidden. And the human rights victims for their part are free to take such steps or seek such remedies that will enable them to be compensated. Whenever the PCGG and the human rights victims find themselves in a contest over something, they are not necessarily enemies,” he said.

Abcede said the parties in a legal battle necessarily lose some and win some, “just like in a boxing match made up of 12 rounds, you could lose some of the rounds and win some of the rounds.”

The human rights group recently scored a victory when the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a class judgment in favor of the victims remained valid.

The PCGG was created in 1986 in the aftermath of the EDSA People Power revolt that toppled the rule of late President Ferdinand Marcos and was tasked with the recovery of the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.

Critics have said the Commission’s record in running after the ill-gotten wealth was spotty at best but the PCGG said it had been able to recover about P82 billion in cash and assets of the late strongman, his families and cronies since 1986. (PNA)

RMA/HCT

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