By Jerrie Abella
Source: GMA News

The Philippines’ martial law victims scored a double victory in US and Singapore courts, boosting their claim for indemnification for human rights abuses they suffered under the Marcos dictatorship.

These two decisions came nearly two decades after a Hawaii court first ruled in their favor, which entitled them to almost $2 billion damage claims.

The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an April 5 decision that a class judgment against the Marcos estate was enforceable both in Illinois and Texas courts.

The ruling affirmed a 2005 decision of the Hawaii District Court against the Marcos estate valued at $150 million.

It likewise reversed a decision of the Northern District Court of Texas, which stated the Hawaii court ruling may not be enforced in Texas as the judgment has expired before it was registered in that state.

“The court ruled that the class judgment of the Hawaii District Court against the Marcos Estate was valid in Illinois and was properly transferred to Texas,” said Robert Swift, the American counsel for the 9,539 victims, in reports.

4,000-acre property

The property in question was the 4,000 acres of land in Texas the titles of which are held by the Marcos estate and several other companies controlled by the Campos and Tan families.

The companies named as defendants in the US case are B N Development Co. Inc., Ellesmere Investment Corp. Inc., Jason Development Co. Inc., Langley Investment Corp. Inc., Pender Investment Corp. Inc., Revelstoke Investment Corp. and Vernon Investment Corp. Inc.

According to Swift, the Texas ruling was being used by the Philippine government, the Philippine National Bank, and the defendant companies in court proceedings in other jurisdictions to disallow human rights victims to purse the case against Marcos coming from the Hawaii court decision.

“For the past two years, the Arroyo administration, the Presidential Commission on Good Governance, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and the Campos family viciously attacked the class victims’ judgment… They and their ‘experts’ should feel deep shame and remorse for the harm they caused the victims,” Swift said.

The class victims similarly won a separate victory in a Singapore court, which currently hears a $28-million litigation.

Justice Kan Ting Chiu in an order issued last week rejected the demand of the Philippine government and the PNB for a list of names and addresses of all the claimants in the class suit.

“The only purpose for demanding such list is retaliation by military and para-military groups who first abused these victims during the Marcos regime. No one should underestimate the vindictiveness of the current administration,” Swift said in the same statement.

1992 decision for indemnification

The US Federal Court of Hawaii ruled in 1992 for the indemnification of victims amounting to $2 billion.

Apart from the 4,000-acre real estate, the properties and monies identified by the court as the source of the indemnification are the $680-million Swiss account of the Marcoses and the $35-million Arelma being claimed by the government along with the Singapore account.

“The (US) court decision is not only a victory for the victims; it is also a victory for the Filipino people. It is high time that the victims be compensated. This compensation is not just about money; it is part of getting justice,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of SELDA (Society of Ex-Detainees and for Liberation against Detention and for Amnesty), an organization of former political detainees.

At least 120,000 Filipinos were detained under the Marcos dictatorship, according to SELDA.

Over 9,000 subsequently filed a class action suit for crimes against humanity against the Marcoses before the US Federal Court System in 1986, which they eventually won in 1992.

The human rights violations stemmed from the military rule in 1972 declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed in 1986 through a people’s uprising. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

SELDA thus urged the Marcoses, particularly senatorial candidate Ferdinand “Bong-bong” Marcos Jr., to honor the recent US court decision and cooperate in the speedy compensation of the victims.

“We dare the Marcoses, who want to have a comeback in Philippine politics, to willingly execute the judgment, that is, if they truly want to serve the Filipino people. Show to us that you truly are against corruption by posing no objection to this recent court ruling,” Enriquez said.