CA rejects Marcos victims' claims for $2B damages 1

By Virgil Lopez
Source: GMA News

The Court of Appeals (CA) has tossed out the petition seeking to enforce the United States court decision that awarded some $2 billion in compensation to human rights victims during the term of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

In a decision dated July 7, the CA 12th Division affirmed the Makati Regional Trial Court’s ruling dismissing the petition filed by the victims, among them former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales and film director Joel Lamangan.

According to the CA, the February 3, 1995 ruling handed down by the United States District Court in Hawaii in the class suit filed by some 10,000 rights victims against the Marcos estate,  is not binding since the Hawaii court lacked jurisdiction over the case.

The appellate court said the right to due process of all the unnamed claimants as well as the Marcos estate had been violated.

It also said the classification of the claimants into three categories — torture, summary execution and disappearance of victims — only showed  “no common question of law and fact exists between/among the claimants.”

“In other words, each claimant in [Class Action No.] MDL 840 had a right, if any, only to the damage that such individual may have suffered, and not one of them had any right to or can claim any interest in the damage or injury which another suffered. Hence, MDL 840 was not and should not have been brought as a class suit,” the CA said through Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro.

The CA added the Hawaii court failed to ensure that the 10 Filipino citizens who brought the suit “were truly and legally authorized by the other purported claimants.”

The 10 claimants are Celsa Hilao, Josefina Hilao Forcadilla, Arturo Revilla, Jr., Rodolfo Benosa, Danila Fuente, Renato Pineda, Adora Faye de Vera, Domiciano Amparo, Christopher Sorio, and Jose Duran.

“It boggles the mind how the final judgment could be enforced when the supposed claimants were not even identified,” the decision stated. “On the other hand, it gave no opportunity for the Marcos Estate to confront each and every claimant. Evidently, the right to due process of both parties was violated.”

The CA also said the Hawaii decision failed to meet the standards for a valid judgment since the decision was issued on the basis of a different law,  “presumably” the Torture Victim Protection Act, instead of the Alient Tort Claims Act (ATCA).

ATCA is a law that grants jurisdiction to federal district courts over all causes where a foreigner sues for any harm resulting from a violation of international law, no matter where the harm occurred, or who inflicted the harm, as long as the plaintiff serves process in the US territory.

“Given the foregoing recent development, it is our considered opinion that the instant final judgment may not be enforced in this jurisdiction as it is clear that even the US Supreme Court has come to realize that American laws could not have jurisdiction over sovereign countries,” the CA said.

“While our country follows the doctrine of incorporation with respect to customary international law, which means that this country adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, adopting such principles does not, however, mean giving the same primacy, if not application.”

Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Jhosep Lopez concurred with the decision.