Saturday, June 21, 2014

Applying to the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board

Over forty years ago, on the first anniversary of Martial Law,  I was arrested, tortured and subsequently detained for seven months for distributing leaflets that  denounced the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. It was a traumatic experience and after four decades I am still occasionally haunted by a recurring nightmare that brings back the feeling of helplessness and terror.   Perhaps, this is a symptom of the so-called post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). During those times, there was no such thing as stress debriefing or psycho-social first aid. But even without the help of psychiatrists, I have tried to get over what happened in my own way and by God’s grace.

Last year, congress passed the Republic Act 10368 that will grant recognition and compensation for the victims of human rights violation during the Martial Law years. There is a six-month period for application (May 12, 2014 – November 1, 2014). So last Thursday I went to the office of the Human Rights Victims’  Claim Board at Virata Hall (University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus) to submit my application. I brought along my sworn statement, birth certificate, supporting documents, etc. There were around 20 applicants at that time - among them former senator Orly Mercado. I had to go to the second floor to have my sworn statement signed before a lawyer. After that I was interviewed by a staff member and my supporting documents checked. Then my filled application form was encoded and my picture taken. It took one hour to go through the process. At the end I was given the Receipt which I am posting below. Meanwhile, I will just wait for the Board to go through my application and make their approval. The waiting could take two years.

 After all these years, I never thought that this day will come. A few weeks ago, while I was at Starbucks drinking capuccino and preparing my sworn statement which narrated what happened forty years ago, my eyes were filled with tears. It was an overwhelming experience having to recall the traumatic incident. The recognition from the HRVCB and is part of the closure and healing process. I do not see myself as just a victim but a survivor.