x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Victims of Philippines dictator Marcos win compensation

Thousands of Filipino victims of human rights abuses under Ferdinand Marcos will each be paid $1,000 next week after a court case that has lasted 25 years against the Marcos family.

MANILA // About 7,500 victims of human rights abuses during the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos's regime will receive compensation starting next week, 25 years after a peaceful revolt forced Marcos into exile, their lawyers said yesterday.

It is the first time the victims will receive any compensation since they filed a class-action suit in 1986.

"The distribution is historic and a triumph after 25 years of struggle to achieve justice," said the lead lawyer, Robert Swift, an American.

Mr Swift said victims will receive the equivalent of US$1,000 (Dh3,670) each starting in a ceremony on Monday. Swift and his Filipino co-counsels, assisted by the Commission on Human Rights, will distribute cheques personally to claimants or their heirs in Manila and 15 other locations in the country.

One co-counsel, the former senator Rene Saguisag, said "the money is important but more important is to send the message to would-be dictators, to would-be human rights violators, that they cannot hide anywhere".

Mr Saguisag said the payments should warn dictators now facing uprisings in the Middle East or elsewhere that "there is no haven for gross human rights violators".

Last month, Judge Manuel Real of the US District Court of Hawaii approved the distribution of $7.5 million to 7,526 eligible members of the lawsuit. There were 9,539 members at the beginning of the case but some 2,000 did not meet court requirements.

The money comes from a $10m settlement of a case against individuals controlling Texas and Colorado land bought with Marcos money, but some $2.5m was deducted for legal fees and payment to the person who located the properties.

Mr Swift said the $1,000 is not an adequate amount and was just a start, and that more money may be forthcoming.

Last month Judge Real issued a judgment holding Marcos's widow Imelda and son Ferdinand Jr in contempt for violating a US court order requiring them to furnish information on assets of the Marcos estate and to not dissipate the holdings. The court ordered them to pay a fine of $353.6m for the benefit of the victims.

Mr Swift said the contempt judgment "will give us an opportunity to pursue other assets that we haven't been able to pursue".

Two other court cases in Singapore and New York involving a total of $68m are also nearing conclusion.

The payments to the victims will partly fulfil a $2 billion judgment against the Marcos estate in 1995. A federal jury awarded the money after finding Marcos liable for torture, summary executions and disappearances of political opponents during his 20-year rule.