Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why midnight replacements at HRVCB?

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
At the 11th hour when 93 percent of some 75,000 cases filed by human rights violations victims have been adjudicated at the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), and five months to go before the board’s mandate ends in May 2018, why did President Duterte have to make midnight replacements? The board was naturally shocked to learn that the President had replaced two of its board members “without cause and due process.”

The midnight replacements worried claimants that there might be more replacements and that the claims would be compromised.
There was no explanation at all except for presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying that it was presidential prerogative, and that as far as he knew there would be no more replacements.

The nine members of the HRVCB when it began were chair Lina Sarmiento, members Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballaho, Byron D. Bocar, Glenda Litong, Aurora Corazon A. Parong, Erlinda N. Senturias, Dexter B. Calizar and Jacqueline V. Mejia. They were appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III.

Calizar was replaced by Nasser Pangandaman Jr., a former mayor of Masui, Lanao del Sur, whose appointment was signed on Nov. 27. Mejia was replaced by Ricardo Moldez whose appointment was dated Dec. 8. Mejia was Commission on Human Rights executive director for 27 years. “She had excellent work ethic,” a colleague of hers in the HRVCB said.
Former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner Ruben Carranza reacted to the news thus: “I wrote the very first draft of this law. So when … spokesperson Harry Roque says ‘We can’t rebuke (President Duterte’s) wisdom’ in appointing these two new persons to the board …, he’s wrong. Not only are these appointments unwise, they’re unlawful.”
In his Facebook post, Carranza said what he thought of the two new appointees and cited Section 8 of Republic Act No. 10368 that created the HRVCB and set the qualifications of its members: “(a) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; (b) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; (c) at least three of them must be members of the Philippine bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years; and (d) must have a clear understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
Question: Do Pangandaman and Moldez have these qualifications?
I was told that Pangandaman was interested in another post and not, for heaven’s sake, in a seat in the HRVCB.
Victims of the Marcos dictatorship belonging to the group Claimants 1081 promptly drafted a resolution “expressing grave concern over the midnight replacement of two members of the human rights victims claims board; urging the claims board to faithfully implement its mandate by expediting the adjudication and resolution of all claims; and calling on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect, safeguard and maintain the integrity and independence of the claims board and to immediately direct the organization of the memorial commission and the establishment of the human rights museum pursuant to the provisions of (RA) 10368.”
The HRVCB is “an independent quasi-judicial body charged to, among others, receive, evaluate, investigate and adjudicate claims for reparation and/or recognition for human rights violations victims during the martial law period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.”

It is divided into three commissions but acts as a single collegiate body and meets en banc on certain matters specified under the law. It maintains a staff of about 150, many of them lawyers and paralegals described as “hardworking and very dedicated.”
The P10 billion allotted for rights victims came from Marcos hidden wealth returned by the government of Switzerland on condition that it would go to victims.
The claims filed with the HRVCB are different and separate from the $2-billion class suit that victims filed against the Marcos estate and won in a Hawaii court in 1994.
The last batch of the HRVCB’s approved claimants is expected to be out before the yearend. The first months of 2018 will be for appeals and oppositions to claims.
With firm resolve, let us find the true essence of Christmas.#