Philippines president signs law to compensate victims of martial law abuses News
Philippines president signs law to compensate victims of martial law abuses
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[JURIST] Philippines President Benigno Aquino III [official website] on Monday signed legislation to compensate the victims of human rights abuses committed 27 years ago under the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos [JURIST news archive]. The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 [text, PDF] will allocate 10 billion pesos (USD $246 million) in reparations for approximately 10,000 victims [Manila Times report] eligible to claim compensation based on abuses that took place from the time Marcos instated martial law in 1972 until he was overthrown in 1986. Over the next six months eligible individuals may submit applications for reparations to the nine-member Human Rights Victims Compensation Board, appointed by the president, which will evaluate and award claims based on a point system. Aquino signed the law on the twenty-seventh anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution [Philippine History backgrounder], which was led by his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, and overthrew US-backed Marcos. During that period Aquino’s father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was detained for months and later assassinated in Manila, making Aquino’s family eligible to receive some of the funds, but Corazon Aquino has already stated that the family will not seek monetary reparations, merely official recognition of the tragedy. The reparations will be funded by money recovered from Swiss bank accounts [BBC report] secretly maintained by Marcos during his 20 years in power and transferred to the Philippine government by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

The Philippines House of Representatives and Senate [official websites] ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the reconciled version of the law in late January, a few days after the congress approved the final version of the bill [JURIST report] during its second reading. The Philippines has struggled in terms of addressing human rights issues from the Marcos regime to as recently as the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre [CSM backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and the resulting political controversies. Earlier in January a 150-day ban on guns [JURIST report] was instituted to prevent election violence. In December the Philippine Congress officially criminalized [JURIST report] enforced disappearances, which were commonly used during the Marcos era. In November Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on the Philippines to do more to protect witnesses [JURIST report] in the Maguindanao Massacre trial. Also in November the Philippines Supreme Court [official website] denied the media [JURIST report] the right to broadcast the Maguindanao massacre trial.