Seized Marcos loot again awarded to victims
For the fourth time, thousands of victim-survivors and relatives of those who perished and vanished during the dark night under the Marcos dictatorship have each been handed their compensation checks.
In 2011, 2014 and again this year (2019), more than 6,000 members of a class suit against the Marcos estate received compensation for the sufferings (torture, rape, detention, loss of loved ones, etc.) they endured during the martial law years from 1972 to 1986. A US court in Hawaii had determined the exemplary and compensatory damages amounting to almost $2 billion or P80 billion.
Just to refresh: The 2014 compensation was from a $10-million settlement over an 1899 Monet painting previously owned by Imelda Marcos and fraudulently sold by her secretary Vilma Bautista. This 2019, the $13.7-million compensation comes from the sale of another set of paintings (from which the Philippine government had to get a cut!).
Separately last year, a compensation package amounting to almost P10 billion returned by the Swiss government, and as provided for under Republic Act No. 10368 (passed and signed during the Aquino presidency), was released by the Philippine government to more than 11,000 claimants. Note that the Swiss government returned the Marcos stash on condition that it would go to human rights violations victims. RA No. 10368 is “an act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”
The processing and distribution of compensation for this separate indemnification of victims (RA No. 10368) are over, but the Memorial Museum, as provided in the law, is still in the planning stage. We will be seeing the winning architectural design soon.
I have witnessed all four distributions, and I have noticed that many claimants’ steps are slower this time than when they came for the first distribution in 2011. Many have since passed on to the Gentle Beyond, activists who were claimed by sickness, aging claimant-parents of those who perished in the night long ago.
Personally handing out the checks these past months until this week and feeling the hands of the class suit members is American lawyer Robert Swift, who led thousands of martial law victims-survivors in winning the class suit against the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Last Tuesday morning, he could not give the checks himself because he was at the “Conversations with Robert Swift” event at the University of the Philippines Law Center.
At the event, Swift detailed the long, tedious human rights litigation process that began in 1986 and ended in triumph in 1995 at a Hawaii court, with Judge Manuel Real presiding. To make a long story short, the final judgment set a $2-billion compensation for human rights abuse victims.
How the case began and progressed is a huge story in itself. The case meant getting the testimonies of victims whose wounds were still fresh when it began. But winning the case was not an end in itself. Searching for the Marcos ill-gotten wealth hidden all over the world was an even bigger hurdle. There were many blocks thrown along the way, some even coming from a competing claimant, the Philippine government itself, and the Marcos family, of course.
If you want to know more about Swift and his quest for justice for the martial law victims and his creative use of legal strategies and research on legal doctrine and long-forgotten statutes, a good read would be https://www.superlawyers.com/pennsylvania/article/swift-justice/53ead9e9-b036-4605-951e-f6326bcd8284.html.
By the way, Swift is also representing the victims of the Holocaust and South Koreans who suffered under the Japanese during World War II. But remember this: Winning the class suit against the Marcos estate is a historic legal first in the world, an unprecedented one that cannot be ignored.
I asked Swift if he was intending to write a book on the historic case that he embarked on on behalf of victims, an instructive page-turner for the delectation of both lawyers and nonlawyers. “Not just yet” was an expected answer, considering that the quest for the Marcos hidden wealth and compensation for victims is far from over.
More on him perhaps another time.
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