A country in a democratic transition must come to terms with its past in order to move forward.
Addressing past atrocities and injustices is considered a crucial part of social healing and national reconciliation. Acknowledging the misdeeds especially human rights violations is one significant step towards guaranteeing the right of the victims for effective remedies.
However, remedial measures take various forms of reparation. One way is through compensation. This serves both as an acknowledgment of the human rights violations and the sanctioning of the state for allowing or for directly committing such violations.
After more than four decades, the Philippine government through the passage of Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 finally recognizes “the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims” of human rights violations during martial law and “restore the victims’ honor and dignity.”
Compensation provides not only material but also symbolic political and social benefits. First, it helps bring immediate economic relief to victims and their families and allow them to meet the basic survival needs. Secondly, the monetary compensation may serve as a deterrent for future abuses by imposing financial sanctions for committing such violations.
Although harms or injuries resulting from human rights violations are often irreparable but compensation can help restore the victims’ dignity by knowing that their rights are recognized and the violations committed against them are being atoned.
But lest we forget that reparations are not primarily about money, but to publicly acknowledge the wrongdoings and to guarantee its non-repetition. It is a necessary component of the healing process as it signifies a concrete step on the part of the state to make amends and take full responsibility for the historical tragedies like Martial Law.
Compensation must therefore serve to continuously promote and protect human rights. For money can’t buy justice but it can help the victim to endlessly pursue it.