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ML victims sue Marcoses anew: Pay up!

Human rights violations victims (HRVV) during the martial law years under the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos are seeking $353.6 million in compensatory damages from Rep. Imelda Marcos, the former first lady, and her son, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The lawsuit is for the Marcoses’ obstruction of the HRVV’s efforts to collect on the historic $2-billion (about P88-billion) compensation for 9,539 claimants awarded by a Hawaii district court in 1995.

Filipinos who were tortured and detained as well as relatives of those who were summarily executed and disappeared during those dark years were to file the lawsuit yesterday against Imelda and Bongbong at the Makati Regional Trial Court for the recognition of the US judgment.

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(The lawsuit was to have been filed two days ago but most everybody who had official business in Makati City Hall were barred from entering. Police trying to enforce the Ombudsman’s suspension order on Mayor Junjun Binay, who is being investigated for alleged corruption, were barred by Binay supporters who caused a melee.)

The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are: Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Joel C. Lamangan, Hilda B. Narciso, Priscilla Mijares and Jose Duran in their own behalf and in behalf of the class plaintiffs in Class Action No. MDL 840, US District Court of Hawaii.

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The counsels for the plaintiffs against the Marcos mother and son are Rodrigo C. Domingo, Rene A.V. Saguisag, Ruben O. Fruto and Nelson O. Loyola.

In their prefatory statement, the plaintiffs, through their counsels, said the action emanated from MDL 840, a class action filed in the Hawaii district court against Ferdinand E. Marcos’ estate “from where the herein sought enforcement of foreign judgment for compensatory and exemplary damages arising from Ferdinand E. Marcos’ tortuous violations of international law, including torture, summary execution and disappearance of approximately 9,539 citizens of the Republic of the Philippines between the years 1972 [and] 1986.”

They said that after the Jan. 27, 1995, $2-billion judgment in their favor, the Marcoses refused to identify and disclose the location of the assets of the former dictator who died in 1989 in Hawaii. The claimants’ lawyers said they have presented “ample evidence of actions taken by the Marcoses to hide the properties of the former president.”

In 1997, the class suit claimants filed in the Makati court a complaint for enforcement of the foreign judgment (Priscilla Mijares et al. vs Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos). A decision rendered on June 25, 2013, was brought to the Court of Appeals, where it is now pending. Evidently, the Marcoses do not want to honor the Hawaii court ruling that is final and executory.

The Hawaii claimants’ lead counsel Robert Swift said: “The new lawsuit seeking the recognition of the US judgment will open up the possibility of the victims recovering the personal property of Congresswoman Marcos and Sen. Marcos, not just the assets of the former president. They will seek the Marcoses’ real estate, bank accounts, securities, jewelry and artwork. Both of the Marcoses are known to be among the wealthiest people in the Philippines.

“The Marcoses have thumbed their noses at the US Court and Filipino victims of human rights abuses had been trampled upon ever since the original judgment was entered. They were caught trying to dissipate the Marcos Estate’s assets to recapitalize their political dynasty in the Philippines.”

Swift added that the HRVV are already executing on their $353.6-million judgment in litigation in the United States and are pursuing artworks of Imelda Marcos found in New York in the possession of her convicted former assistant Vilma Bautista. He said the opposition of the Philippine government to that litigation has delayed the recovery for the HRVV.

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But it will be recalled that in a separate move in 2013, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act) granting the HRVV a P10-billion compensation package. A claims board is now in the process of determining who among the tens of thousands who had filed for claims during the yearlong filing period have submitted the required proofs that they were indeed HRVV. Included in the RA 10368 package are monetary and nonmonetary compensation plus a memorial museum and archives that would honor Filipino courage against tyranny.

RA 10368 is “distinct and separate” from the class suit filed by the 9,539 victims in Hawaii in the early 1990s. The Hawaii claimants have twice received only partial compensation in measly amounts that were sourced from a discovered hidden asset and sale of a Monet painting illicitly peddled to a collector. Hence this new lawsuit to compel the Marcoses to pay up.

Members of Claimants 1081 (who spearheaded the class suit in Hawaii), among them Rosales, a former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said that if the state had recognized its responsibility to the people whose rights were violated, “why should Imelda and Bongbong, who represent the Marcos family, not comply with the court’s decision? As lawmakers, they are obliged to uphold and comply with the law.” Noncompliance means “impunity to the highest degree,” the claimants said.

Domingo, Swift’s cocounsel, is optimistic that the Philippine courts will recognize the US judgment. The duty to recognize derives from the legal doctrine of international comity, he said, adding: “If the local court fails in its duty, judgments of Philippine courts may not receive the same recognition and validity in other countries.”

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos, human rights violations victims, Junjun Binay, martial law
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