By Penelope Endozo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

18 April 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Lawyers who won $1,000 in compensation for each victim of abuse under the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship have been accused of injustice for disqualifying other claimants, like Jose Maria Sison and other former communist party leaders.

Selda, a group representing former detainees during the martial law years, demanded that Filipino lawyer Rodrigo Domingo and his US counterpart, Robert Swift, reinstate 2,013 disqualified claimants in the list of beneficiaries.

The group has threatened to go to court, accusing Domingo and Swift of “arbitrariness” in selecting compensation recipients.

Another rights violation

“The group denounces this injustice that your delisting has inflicted on the original members of the class suit,” Selda chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said in an April 14 letter to Domingo and Swift, the lead counsels of the class suit filed in Hawaii against Marcos.

“You have, in a way, perpetrated another human rights violation on the aging victims of Marcos’ martial law,” said Enriquez in the letter, a copy of which was provided the Inquirer.

The settlement ordered by Judge Manuel Real provided a $10.26-million fund to 7,526 eligible claimants out of the original 9,539 plaintiffs of the class action suit.

File claims twice

Domingo told the Inquirer that only 7,526 of the original claimants were eligible as stated in the court order. He explained that the victims had to file their claims twice and only those who filed papers in 1993 and in 1999 were eligible per court order.

He denied any irregularity and said that the lawyers had been transparent in their distribution of checks, observed by representatives from the Commission on Human Rights and the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

According to Domingo, around 85 percent of the claimants had received their share of the compensation. The rest will get their checks by mid-May, he said.

Denied on a technicality

Selda spokesperson Fr. Dionisio Cabillas said some plaintiffs of the class suit were being denied their share because of a technicality.

“Some of those who were not in the master list have clippings and release papers that prove they were victims of martial law. In fact, others who were detained and who had received their checks were there with them.”

Selda named Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, among those who were disqualified, along with other former CPP officials Fidel Agcaoili and Satur Ocampo.

Activism was a crime

Napoleon Escuyos, 61, one of those disqualified, said he was detained as a student activist in 1973 at Camp Olivas in Pampanga for supporting former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. by passing out leaflets. “Activism before was a crime,” he said he was told.

Escuyos said he would use the money for his five children if he gets a check. He said he filed his papers in 1993 in San Fernando, Pampanga, but was not able to attend to other requirements in 1999.

“But they have my complete address, my records, everything. I’m supposed to be on that list,” he said.

‘I almost died’

Former labor leader Veronico Antes, 64, said he worked abroad in the late 1990s and only learned about the case requirements when he returned to the country in 1998 and was delisted. He said he was detained many times in “bartolina” (solitary confinement) inside Camp Crame and Fort Bonifacio.

“I almost died. I was even tortured by the late Colonel [Rolando] Abadilla,” he said.

He said his name had been on the National Bureau of Investigation list of suspected subversives since 1977. He said he was only cleared after he showed the NBI his release papers and made a pledge of allegiance to the republic.