Groups ask SC to nullify Sarmiento appointment

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2014 03:08 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2014 11:08 PM

MANILA - As the country celebrates the 28th anniversary of the first EDSA People Power Revolution today, Tuesday, several human rights victims during Martial Law urged the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify the recent appointment of retired Gen. Lina Sarmiento as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Bayan chairperson Maria Carolina Araullo, Trinidad Repuno, Tita Lubi, and Josephine Dongail told the high court that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III committed grave abuse of discretion in appointing Sarmiento despite her failure to meet qualifications set forth in Republic Act (RA) No. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013).

Petitioners sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent Sarmiento from performing her duties as the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board head.

"Respondent President Aquino committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in appointing a former police general as head of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board," the petition read.

Petitioners said that under RA No 10368, the head and members of the board "must be of known probity, competence and integrity, must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinan E. Marcos, and must have a clear and adequate understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy."

"Respondent Aquino may argue that respondent Sarmiento has a track record as a member and officer of the Philippine National Police but it cannot be denied that she lacks the mandated qualifications set forth under the law and the institution she represents lacks the credibility and integrity to deliver justice to human rights victims," the petition read.

Petitioners pointed out that Sarmiento was a member of the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police who were among those who allegedly committed human rights violations during Martial Law, and was part of government's counter-insurgency program during her stint as PNP Community Relations Group chief.

"The issue of whether respondent Sarmiento meets the exacting qualities [to head the board] is therefore put to serious question. This does not inspire, merit or command trust and confidence in the head of the Board," the petition read.

In selecting a former law enforcer, petitioners said Mr. Aquino "with one swoop demolished whatever gains and progress Martial Law victims have achieved.

DE LIMA VOUCHES FOR SARMIENTO

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, who served as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) prior to her appointment to the justice department, defended Sarmiento's appointment last week, describing the latter as "hardworking, honest, and with an untarnished integrity."

"I understand how some sectors feel about the choice of Gen. Sarmiento on account of her coming from the PNP... I thought the choice of Gen. Lina was particularly inspired, an out-of-the-box choice," De Lima said.

The justice chief was among those who made the nominations for the membership of the claims board.