BUTUAN City — Human rights victims at the height of Marcos regime atrocities in the countryside in Caraga region in the 1980s patiently queued at the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights here on Wenesday to claim P78,000 checks each from American human rights lawyer Robert Swift.
The third tranche of distribution of checks were personally handed over by Swift to at least 140 recipients belonging to a group called “Claimants 1081” which he fought for years in Hawaii.
Swift’s law firm has already given individual checks to the human rights victims in 2011 with P43,000 each and in 2013 with P50,000 each from the court settlements of Marcos ill-gotten wealth.
Swift expects about 90 percent of the claimants will come at the CHR office to get their checks which will end at noon Thursday mostly whose ages range from 60 up to 80 years old.
He considered the percentage of response was still enough considering that the notices were sent through the snail-paced Philippine Postal Corporation mail system.
Another problem Swift’s local team faced was some of the claimants never updated their addresses that the notice documents would return to them.
He noted one young recipient named “Jerry” was allowed to get his late father’s claim after he complied the requirements of providing a Special Power of Attorney and a death certificate.
Lucresia Monte, 64, whose younger brother was one of 12 innocent civilians massacred by members of the dreaded “Lost Command”, a private army anticommunist group in June 23, 1983 in the village of Lucena in Prosperidad town in Agusan del Sur said she never received a letter from the local postal office.
But she was lucky enough that her daughter who works in Manila sent a text message to her that she read a Facebook post about the distribution of checks is set on May 1 for Caraga region claimants.
Some others however went home empty handed.
Norma Montenegro, 62, whose farmer husband Max Victor was summarily executed by the elements of the defunct Philippine Constabulary in the woods in the village of Layog in Tago town in Surigao del Sur in 1983 was not among listed in the claim documents sheets prepared by Swift’s staff.
Leonor Ledesma Jr., Training Specialist IV at CHR Caraga, said Montenegro was among several claimants who came to their office in 2011 and 2013 who were not listed as “Claimants 1081” beneficiaries because of lacking of necessary documents.
A check on her documents tucked on a folder showed only an affidavit from her neighbor Remedios Azarcon duly notarized by a lawyer testifying that she witnessed how Max Victor was tortured and later summarily executed months later in 1983.
Monte however explained to Montenegro that she had indeed lacked documents like a certification from the Barangay officials to verify that there was a gruesome massacre incident that occurred on the date and a police blotter records from the municipal police station.
“I never wasted time to get these documents in 1983 since I thought this could be useful in seeking justice for the death of my brother,” Mont said.
She recalled her brother Felix who was then aged 24 was frisked by the heavily-armed Lost Command bandits towards the Barangay Hall where he and 11 other civilians purportedly teaching them how to fire a rifle but it turned out that the gunman at the stage peppered the victims with magazines of bullets.
“The gunman who saw my brother still gasping for breath finished him off at his head and even mutilated his organs,” she recalled.
The victims were later hauled off a truck by the National Irrigation Administration and brought at the back of the town hall where they were buried on a mass grave.
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