November 20, 2008
Martial law victims decry continued denial of justice,
demand passage of Indemnification Bill
As Congress conduct hearings on the fertilizer fund scam, members of the
Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya
(SELDA) decried the continued denial of justice for the thousands of
victims of Martial Law during the Marcos regime and demanded for the
immediate passage of Indemnification Bill.
The House of Representatives is now investigating the possible
embezzlement by the then DA Undersecretary Joc-joc Bolante of P728
million, part of which is the recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth. The fund
was allegedly diverted to the campaign kitty of GMA in the 2004
SELDA expressed support to the proposed House Bill 3756 or "Martial Law
Victims Compensation Bill" filed by Bayan Muna Representative Satur
Ocampo, Gabriela Womens Partylist Representative Liza Masa and the late
Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran.
The bill recognizes the unspeakable suffering and loss of all those who
were victimized during martial law by the worst forms of human right
atrocities – involuntary disappearances, summary execution, torture and
unjust detention. It affirms the State's moral and legal obligation to
grant them indemnification. "This is recognized as one of the fundamental
principles of law and in seeking redress for violation of substantive
human rights norms," said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, martial law victim and
secretary general of SELDA.
Over two decades have passed since SELDA filed a class suit against the
late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the US Federal Court system. In 1992,
the US Federal Court in Hawaii handed down the landmark decision holding
Marcos liable for crimes against humanity and awarding exemplary damages
of $1.2 billion and compensatory damages of $776 million to 9,539 victims
of atrocities during the 14 years of Marcos dictatorship in the
The Court identified the Marcos ill-gotten wealth stashed in the Swiss
banks to be the source of funds for the victims' indemnification. Through
the Philippine Supreme Court ruling finding the then $624 million ordered
transferred to the Philippine government by the Swiss Supreme Court
decision of 1997 as ill-gotten, the said amount was finally transferred to
the National Treasury in January 2004.
The money was supposedly used by the Department of Agrarian Reform for
land acquisition for CARP implementation but the victims fear that part of
this amount went to graft and corruption.
SELDA also assailed the Arroyo administration and the
Administration-dominated 14th Congress for denying them the passage of the
bill while the recovered ill gotten funds are disappearing like bubbles.
HIlao-Enriquez said, "The continued denial of justice and indemnification
for the martial law victims by GMA and the Administration-dominated
Congress is a prolongation of our misery and is actually an extended
violation of our rights."
"The long wait should be over for Marcos victims and the entire Filipino
people. We were victims thrice over: First by Marcos' cruelty, second by
the difficulty of seeking justice, and third by the callousness of the GMA
government while embezzling the Marcos' funds." ###
UN Castigates Philippine
Gov’t on Marcellana-Gumanoy Case
UN Human Rights Committee Says Arroyo Gov’t Guilty of Violating Rights on
In February 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudical, Summary and
Arbitrary Killings Philip Alston pointed to the Armed Forces of the
Philippines as the culprit behind the spate of extrajudicial killings and
enforced disappearances. Recently, the United National Human Rights
Committee concluded that the Philippine government violated the rights of
Eden Marcellana, then secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, and
Eddie Gumanoy, former secretary general of peasant group Kasama-TK, who
were victims of extrajudicial killings in 2003.
BY RONALYN OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Families of slain activist Eden Marcellana and human rights group
Karapatan welcomed the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (UNHRC)
findings on the murder of Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy. The UNHRC
concluded that the Philippine government failed to protect the rights of
Marcellana and Gumanoy and provide remedies for redress for the relatives
of the victims.
Based on a fact sheet released by Karapatan immediately after the
incident, the two victims, together with three others, were abducted in
Maibon, Naujan on April 21, 2003. They were part of an 11-member quick
reaction team (QRT) tasked to investigate cases of abduction and killings
in Gloria and Pinagmalayan towns in the province.
On their way back to Calapan City, a group of some 20 bonnet clad armed
men in a private jeep and motorcycles blocked them. They took Eden
Marcellana, Eddie Gumanoy, Virgilio Catoy “King” II, Melvin Jocson and
Francisco Saez with them in the jeep.
Marcellana was then the secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog.
Gumanoy was chairperson of the peasant group Kasama-TK.
Jocson and Saez are provincial coordinators of a partylist group
Anakpawis, and Catoy is a videographer for audio-visual group ST Exposure
and a Cultural Center of the Philippines-awardee.
Catoy, who survived the incident, said the abductors asked who among them
was Marcellana. One of their companions was slapped when she denied that
Marcellana was with them. Marcellana immediately presented herself, asking
that her companions not be hurt. When Marcellana was being taken away,
Gumanoy volunteered to come along.
For hours, the men escorted and led the van along a rough and uphill dirt
road, said Catoy.
One by one, the three were dropped off leaving only Marcellana and
Gumanoy. At one point, Catoy said, he was made to kneel, his back facing
his abductors, blindfolded and hogtied. He was told to say his prayers.
Then the armed men drove off.
The bodies of Marcellana and Gumanoy were found the next day in Bansud,
Witnesses point to the “Bonnet Gang,” a paramilitary group linked with the
Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion of which then Col. Jovito
Palparan Jr. was the commanding officer.
The UN Human Rights Committee is the body monitoring the States parties’
compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The UNHRC’s investigation on the Marcellana and Gumanoy murders stemmed
from a complaint filed on March 9, 2006 by Orly Marcellana, husband of
Eden Marcellana and Daniel Gumanoy, son of farmer leader Eddie Gumanoy.
Both were represented by Karapatan National Secretary General Marie
Hilao-Enriquez. Laywer Edre Olalia, president of the International
Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), assisted the victims’ relatives
and Karapatan in filing the said complaint.
The Committee said the facts reveal violations by the Philippine
government of the right to life of every person, the right to liberty and
security of persons and the rights of violated persons to effective
remedies and the State ensuring that such remedies are provided and
enforced as stated in the provisions of the ICCPR.
The 12-page UN Human Rights Committee’s decision was released on October
30 during its 94th session held at the UN headquarters in Geneva,
The official communication tabbed as CCPR/C/94/1560/2007 and dated 11
November 2008 was received by Karapatan November 21.
In an interview, Helen Mercado-Macalalad, older sister of Marcellana,
said, “Sa tinagal-tagal simula nang pinatay siya, nagkakaroon na ng
katarungan.” (After a long while since she was killed, justice is slowly
Macalalad expressed frustration over the dismissal of the murder charges
filed against the perpetrators in local courts. “Naaabala kami sa mga
hearings, wala naming naging resulta.” (We religiously attended the
hearings and got no results.) “Nakakapanghina ng loob,” (We were losing
hope then.) she recalled.
She said that Palparan, the alleged mastermind of the killings, even
attended the hearings.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general said, “Mabuti pa ang UN,
nagkaroon na ng desisyon. Dito sa atin, walang remedyo.” (It is good that
the UN decided on the case. Here there are no remedies available for the
victims and their families.)
Enriquez said Karapatan, together with the families, exhausted all
possible remedies. “Remedies available turned out to be ineffective,” she
Macalalad said she hopes the perpetrators will receive punishment. She
said she believes Palparan has a hand in the killings. “Malakas ang
ebidensya [laban kay Palparan.]” (The evidence against Palparan is
The Committee said that the Philippine government “is under an obligation
to provide the authors [complainants] with an effective remedy, including
initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings to establish responsibility
for the kidnapping and death of the victims.”
Macalalad said their parents Isidro and Menecia Mercado would welcome the
news. She has yet to inform them of the UN findings when she gets back to
She added though, “Hindi rin lubos ang kasiyahan. Kahit bayaran pa kami ng
milyon, di na siya [Eden] maibabalik pa.” (Our happiness is not complete.
Even if they pay us millions of pesos, they can never bring her back to us
The Philippine government, said the Committee, must also provide the
complainants appropriate compensation.
Twelve-year-old Dana, daughter of Marcellana, said she is happy about the
decision. She was only seven when her mother was killed.
But when asked about their reaction when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
praised Palparan during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2006,
Dana said, “Si Palparan daw ang nagbibigay ng kapayapaan samantalang sila
ang gumagawa ng mga pagpatay.” (Palparan was said to bring peace while in
reality, they are the ones who do the killings.)
Macalalad said Orly Marcellana, husband of Eden, already received the good
news. She said he is happy.
The Committee asked the Philippine government to submit, within 180 days,
information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s
The Committee said the Philippine government should also ‘take measures to
ensure that such violations do not recur in the future.’
Enriquez said the UN’s decision is a clear indictment of the Arroyo
government. “It’s a shame that the Philippine government is a party to the
ICCPR and has been found to be violating it.”
She added, “There is a basis to prosecute the criminals. The government
must fulfill its obligations.”
Enriquez also said the UN decision would contribute to the wealth of
evidence on human rights violations alleged in the impeachment complaint