Thursday, August 19, 2010

War over CHR highlights rift between leftists, reformists

War over CHR highlights rift between leftists, reformists*


MANILA, Philippines - News about the impending appointment of former Akbayan party-list representative Etta Rosales as chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights is highlighting a rift between groups allied with the Extreme Left and other activist organizations.

In an interview over ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Karapatan secretary-general Marie-Hilao Enriquez said various rights groups oppose Rosales' appointment because she backed a compromise settlement with the Marcoses and established a separate group of victims that would choose monetary settlement over justice for the entire class.

Enriquez said her opposition to Rosales' appointment is not personal. She added, however, that Rosales seemed to have changed her position on the criminal liability of the Marcoses "when there was a chance that money could be gained."

"We are not setting aside her track record and accomplishments. Even President Cory instituted reforms to bring back our democratic institutions. The problem is -- they changed their positions when there's money or if they have a lifeline to the people in power," she said.

For her part, Rosales said she and other reform-minded groups fought hard to win a conviction against the Marcos family for various human rights violations during the martial law era.

Rosales led 9,839 Marcos human rights victims who filed and won a class action suit in the US Hawaii District Court. In its decision, the court said the Marcoses are liable for $1.9 billion exemplary and compensatory damages to the victims.

Rosales said the civil case does not exonerate the Marcoses from criminal liability.

"It's a civil case that's why there are civil damages. The criminal offense of the Marcoses is up to the state. Now, if Imelda Marcos thinks that paying the civil damages exonerates her, that's up to her but the state is the only one that can exonerate. A private party like us cannot exonerate criminal liability," she said.

Enriquez, however, said the court settlement actually stipulates that paying the civil damages exonerates the Marcoses from criminal liability. "That is why we vehemently opposed it," she said.

Rosales said the opposition of some quarters to her appointment actually harkens back to her stand to fight for universality of human rights. She said some groups get angry when she criticizes human rights violations committed by the communist New People's Army.

"We focus on the universality of human rights. It is not just the military and police that commit human rights violations but non-state agents such as private armies. If the military and police try to extort, I condemn that. But if the New People's Army tries to extort, I also condemn that," she said.