CHR backs Sarmiento's appointment to claims board

By Rhodina Villanueva, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 27 2014 02:46 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2014 10:46 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday expressed support for the Human Rights Victims Claims Board after martial law victims filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment of Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as chair of the board.

President Aquino signed into law the Reparation and Recognition of Human Rights Violations Victims Act of 2013, mandating the formation of a Memorial Commission and a claims board. The board will decide on the compensation for martial law victims, survivors and their relatives.

The appointment of Sarmiento, the first two-star woman general of Philippine National Police (PNP), was fraught with controversy, with critics saying she could not serve the interest of victims because she belongs to an institution that had been instrumental in the abduction, torture and killing of citizens and activists during martial law.

But the CHR said it very much welcomes the appointment of Sarmiento.

“Although she is not a human rights victim during martial law, her heart is really dedicated in uplifting human rights,” said CHR Information and Communication Division chief Marc Titus Cebreros.

“The edge of the appointed chairperson is her organizational expertise, which is very important in checking, verifying documents of claimants. She has good credentials, that is why we are optimistic that under her leadership in the board, distribution of compensation will be completed,” he added.

Sarmiento, who took early retirement from the police service last January, is unfazed by the criticisms.

She said she has survived the male-dominated PNP for 34 years, introduced the human-rights program in the police, and was the head of the Human Rights Affairs Office in the PNP.

She also said she did not expect to be appointed by the President.

“I am the most unlikely head to be appointed,” she said in a statement yesterday.

She explained she accepted the appointment because she cannot refuse when she is asked to continue her work as a public servant, especially when this refers to helping in the compensation of martial law victims.