Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada III hailed the passage on second reading of House Bill (HB) 5990, granting compensation to victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos dictatorship, citing it as a “significant triumph for the victims and for the field of human rights in general.” HB5990 principally originated from HB 54 authored by the Deputy Speaker which was consolidated along with other bills of the same intent.

“The passage of the “Compensation Act to Victims of Human Rights Violations” bill at this stage of the legislative process speaks of the strength of this Congress’ commitment towards reparations for human rights abuses, which is the first step towards reconciling ourselves with that part of our history, and then moving on,” he said.

“The bill’s soul centers on the State’s recognition that certain people suffered greatly during the Marcos dictatorship, and that their suffering merits compensation, proceeding from the principle that justice necessitates restitution,” Tañada explained.

According to the lawmaker, the restitution that the bill seeks for the victims is an “important aspect of achieving closure,” noting that “we need it to be able to say to future generations of Filipinos that their government is accountable to the people, and is liable to make amends for its excesses.”

Tañada, however, also cautioned against resting easy, remarking that “while this bill sailed through second reading, it is nothing more than an idea until it becomes, and is enforced as, law.”

The representative of Quezon said his “guarded optimism” was due to the history of the Marcos Compensation Bill, which reached the last stage of the legislative process during the 13th Congress.

“Like the FOI (Freedom of Information Bill), the Bicameral conference committee report of the Marcos Compensation Bill was also up for ratification in the 13th Congress. The FOI lost on a question of quorum, but even that outcome was still better than what happened to the Compensation Bill, which was just never called to be acted on for final Plenary action.”

“That fate is not one I want the bill to repeat,” Tañada said, vowing to “watch its progress like a hawk and apply pressure for its immediate enactment. Senate action in particular bears watching.”

Tañada, who has been a known human rights advocate ever since he was a practicing lawyer, was also chairperson of the House Committee on Human Rights in the Fourteenth Congress. During his tenure, he successfully championed two landmark pieces of legislation: RA 9745 (Anti-Torture Act) and RA 9851 (Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law). #