DAVAO CITY – During the day, they shared food and waited amid the sweltering heat outside the gym. At night, they slept on cartons or on the cold floor. They waited for three nights and four days, only to be told they were waitlisted for the next claims board registration.
On Thursday, the one-day extension of registration of claims for Martial Law victims under the Marcos dictatorship, ended with some 300 of these people from Davao City and Davao del Sur not being able to register claims.
The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), the body in charge of the registration, explained to the crowd that they had to cut off the registration process at around 2:30 pm.
At that time, some 200 victims mostly coming from Cotabato provinces were already completing their registration at the last phase in front of a panel of computers.
Some 1,391 claimants were registered in four days, said HRVCB in-charge Attorney Arcadio Benitez.
The figure exceeded the 900 person-limit that the board set in the registration for three days.
That limit was a cause of consternation to Roger Gonzales, a former student activist in the Marcos era and now a member of the political detainees’ group SELDA that is helping the victims in the claims.
“What happened then was the board gave priority numbers of 300 per day, so everyone scrambled to get in line first. That kind of system fails now, they should have put up tables for every province to get things moving,” he said.
Benitez explained that they are due to take flight and have to spend time packing up the documents.
Benitez offered the victims two options: they will fill out their names and contact phone numbers so that they will be informed of the next round of registration tentatively set at Tagum City around September or October.
Another option is that they will be registering in a planned satellite regional office to be established in Davao City to facilitate the registration.
The victims who were already listless and tired grumbled but complied just to get something done after enduring days of waiting.
Most of those waitlisted were some 200 who came from upland barrios in Davao del Sur province. As claimants, they experienced arrests, torture and strafing from members the Civilian Home Defense Force, the predecessor of the paramilitary CAFGU.
“We are complaining, but what can we do? They should have made things easier in the first place,” said one of the claimants named Merle, who came from Matanao, Davao del Sur.
She went to Davao City to register the claim for her brother who was tortured and killed by the CHDF.
“I left our work and family just to be here. This process should have been done properly,” she said.
She said if the claims board had set up tables by provinces, they all could have been accommodated.
Two farmers, Jose Sanico and Oscar Bantulan from Malalag, Davao del Sur, said they had to persevere again.
“We suffered once, now we’re suffering again,” Bantulan said as he managed to flash a smile and waited.
They almost went home on Wednesday because they got tired of waiting.
“We heard they were going to Digos, but I don’t know. Everything’s not clear,” said Sanico.
Bantulan and Sanico said they have been beaten and were used as guides by the army’s 46th Infantry Battalion in the 1980s.
Bantulan said they had come prepared with the required documents when barangay officials informed them on May 2013 of the creation of the claims board.
HRVCB member Luis ‘Chito’ Gascon earlier apologized for the difficulties experienced by the victims, saying they lacked preparation due to “lack of budget”.
But SELDA national chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez, who witnessed the process in Davao City, rebutted that explanation.
“I called up (Justice Secretary) de Lima to verify this. She said the budget is already there,” she said.
“So why is this so in disarray? They didn’t even serve water or food for the victims,” said Gonzales. The Martial Law victims will receive compensation within end of 2015 sourced from P10 billion of the Marcos wealth now under hold of the national government. The deadline of filing is on November 2014.
Benitez said they will speed up the registration and will plan to set up of the satellite office for victims who had failed to complete their requirements at this time.
SELDA Davao officer Fe Salino also said they are committed to help victims in the registration requirements, and will also go to monitor the next registration in Tagum City.
“We hope the board will do what they promised to contact the claimants to for the next registration,” Salino said.(davaotoday.com)