What’s delaying martial law awareness project?

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    A GOVERNMENT project that was supposed to promote public awareness about the martial law years and the cases of human rights violations during the Marcos regime remains bogged down in bureaucratic delays three years after it was supposed to start.

    The Commission on Audit slammed the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission (HRVVMC) for failure to implement the project despite allocation of funds and the drafting of plans to be carried out.

    Based on available records, the HRVVMC signed a memorandum of agreement with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on December 28, 2017 wherein the latter agency was to provide funds amounting to P1.2 million.

    Based on the said MOA, the project timetable was supposed to end on December 31, 2018.
    A breakdown of the expenditure program for the project showed P200,000 was set aside for the production of videos and the conduct of seminars on “Essential Truths” about Martial Law.

    A sum of P600,000 was earmarked for the Bangsamoro Writeshop Conference and another P70,000 for an “Infographic Design Competition on the Essential Truths of Martial Law.”

    Research work and publication of handbooks about the Tacbil Mosque Palimbang Massacre of 1974 was also planned with funding of P150,000.

    The Palimbang Massacre was acknowledged by the national government only in 2014, 40 years after it happened. Military forces were blamed for killing 1,500 Moros and committing other atrocities against residents of the coastal town of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

    Finally, a Martial Law Film Screening for Educators and Students was also included to be funded by another P180,000.

    Not one of the programmed activities materialized.

    The NHCP transferred the funds to the HRVVMC only on October 30, 2018, just two months before the MOA was to expire. The audit report mentioned no explanation from the NHCP about the delay.

    With time running out, the HRVVMC transmitted the NHCP check to the Bureau of Treasury while it negotiated a new agreement with the funding agency.

    The new MOA was entered into and signed only on September 4, 2019 but again, its lifespan was made unrealistically short as it was set to expire by December 31, 2019.

    Going through the usual official route, the project HRVVMC only requested the Department of Budget and Management to credit the P1.2 million to the commission’s trust account for project mobilization. While the DBM-Document Management System uploaded the request, no fund transfer happened due to the need to determine “completeness of documentary requirements.”

    “As disclosed by the events that transpired throughout the duration of the MOA, the fund intended for the project came late barely two months before the end of validity of the MOA.

    As a result, the intended purpose of promoting awareness and understanding of Martial Law and Human Rights Violation were not achieved,” the COA noted.

    Government auditors pressed the HRVVMC to follow up its request for fund release with the DBM and the BTr to enable it to begin project implementation.

    On September 14, 2020, another request for fund release was submitted to the DBM.