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Latest News Philippines: HR reparations bill okay eyed – Journal.com.ph:
SENATOR Francis Escudero is hopeful that the human rights reparations bill will be approved by the bicameral conference committee next week.
He said that the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2012 seeks to indemnify victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime. It provides that any qualified victim “shall receive compensation from the State free of tax.”
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said that members of the bicameral committee are just ironing out issues on claimants in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaii court ruled in favor of the claimants.
“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,” Escudero said.
“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,” he said.
The senator said that the amount of compensation will 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,” he said.
A Php10-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,” Escudero said.
He said that 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,” he said.
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