“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
One thousand dollars. Roughly P44,000 using the current exchange rate. That’s as good as it gets for the more than 7,000 victims of abuses during Marcos’ reign of terror in the 1970s—at least those included in the settlement’s “approved” list. The original number of victims was reportedly slashed by about 2,000 for reasons that have yet to be made clear.
What’s P44,000 in today’s market?
Clearly it’s not enough for a house, not even a bachelor’s pad, much less a car with a second-hand tag. Top-of-the-line laptops, which go for P100,000 up are still out of reach, although a recipient of the P44,000 could choose from a variety of computer notebooks that go for P20,000, but limited squarely to two—and that’s without a disc player.
Good news is that one can choose from top-of-the-line smartphones, at least those listed by PCWorld: from an Apple 32GB iPhone 4 (roughly $1,170.00) to a T-Mobile MyTouch 4G (about $540.00). I guess with P44,000 one could have a change of wardrobe and hairstyle sufficient for 30 days, including gym fee for a year.
Or, to give your spending that extra edge, why not spend it all on sweepstakes or Lotto tickets? With P44,000 your chances at winning millions may just be the vindication you need. Besides, $1,000 is scarcely the sum that could catapult the recipient into the world of big business—unless you have dreams of being a petty pusher of Valium to high school kids.
There are those who think that the $1,000 settlement for each victim is a victory, proof undeniable that the Marcos regime had committed atrocities during their 20-year reign. They consider it a sort of receipt that stands equally as evidence to the abuses that were all too real to the victims.
Apparently, their lingering wounds don’t count as evidence, any more than their lives did. The trauma of loss, suffered by those who survived, left with little recourse but to seek justice from foreign courts, has little chance of finding ample and justifiable redress.
Why? Because this settlement—which involves Marcos properties in Colorado and Texas—of a thousand dollars crosses the line of insult, made twice as ludicrous by a government that deals in its favour by agreeing to get the bulk of the settlement money. Hence the billion dollar judgment in favour of Marcos’ victims made by a Honolulu court way back 1995 has remained undisbursed.
Be that as it may, what the settlement echoed ’round the international community is that our courts possess little power and savvy to protect Filipinos from crimes. That our people must cross borders for justice borders on the insane, proving all along how little our government thinks of justice in this country.
Hack a person to pieces and government turns a blind eye; let the President and entourage splurge to the tune of $20,000 at a classy restaurant and watch Malacanang do its song-and-dance routine to defend the Chief Executive. Is government so dense as to think that settlement can replace real justice?
Real justice in the matter of abuses perpetrated by the Marcos regime—or any abusive administration—demands that those guilty be hauled in jail. There are no two sides to it.
Coming down to the very bone of the issue, real justice is neither vengeance nor redress.
Justice is freedom for those left behind–themselves victims–to finally, after years of being imprisoned within the unjustifiable memory of pain and loss, move on, however scarred their lives will be thereafter.
We just can’t call ourselves a Republic without it.
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the chief editor of the Philippines Graphic, the country’s top newsweekly magazine. He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle.