Philippines: Victims of Abuses under Marcos Start Getting Compensated

Joseph Jubelag
General Santos, Philippines
2019-05-06
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190506-PH-rally-1000.JPG Ex-political prisoners under the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos hold up signs calling for the jailing of his widow, former first lady Imelda Marcos, as they demonstrate outside the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in Manila, Nov. 13, 2018.
[Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]

People victimized by rights abuses during the two-decade rule of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos have begun receiving U.S. $1,500 each in compensation through the sale of valuable paintings that were part of his ill-gotten wealth, their lawyer said Monday.

American lawyer Robert Swift told radio and TV stations here that he began distributing the money to rights victims in Butuan City, in the southern Mindanao region, at the weekend. Only around 6,600 documented victims of rights abuses came forward to claim the cash, out of an estimated 10,000 victims who had joined the class suit in Hawaii, he said.

“There’s a reason why it’s a reduced number. Sometimes there are multiple claims for the same victim,” Swift told a local radio station. “But the case is historic and has achieved landmark decision about human rights.”

Among those who received the compensation was Lucresia Monte, 64, whose brother, Felix, 24, was among 12 people massacred by an armed group believed to be allied with pro-Marcos forces in the 1980s.

“It was my daughter working in Manila who informed me about the distribution,” Monte told reporters.

President Marcos ruled the country with an iron fist from the mid-1960s till 1986, and placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972. During his rule he led his family in raiding government coffers of up to $10 billion dollars, according to some estimates. The government, however, has since only been able to retrieve about $683 million (35.4 billion pesos) deposited in Swiss banks by the Marcoses.

Marcos was ousted by a near bloodless “people power” revolution in 1986 that sent him and his family into exile in the United States, where he died of natural causes three years later. But members of his family led by his flamboyant widow, Imelda, were subsequently allowed to return home, where they managed to reenter local politics.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lost the vice presidency in 2016, but his sister, Imee Marcos, is running in next week’s legislative elections for a senate seat under the patronage of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The current president has publicly acknowledged the Marcos family’s help in elections that he won handily three years ago. He returned the favor by ordering the reburial of former President Marcos at a heroes’ cemetery in Manila, despite widespread protests.

And the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the agency tasked with going after all of Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth, had said it opposed the distribution of monies to victims of martial law using such assets recovered in the United States.

Last month, New York-based Federal Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla directed the Philippine government to agree to the settlement and to receive U.S. $4 million (207.7 million pesos) in compensation.

The litigation in New York was initiated following the sale of the “Water Lily” painting by Claude Monet for $32 million (1.66 billion pesos) by Vilma Bautista, a crony of the Marcoses.

The federal judge’s ruling was the third round of compensation from the U.S. court to the victims of rights abuses committed under Marcos. Previous payments were for $1,000 (51,800 pesos) and $1,100 (57,000 pesos), respectively. Swift said the second compensation came from a $10 million (518 million pesos) settlement with a British billionaire who had purchased the Monet from Bautista.

In January 2011, a court in Hawaii held Imelda Marcos and Marcos Jr. in contempt for refusing to furnish information and for continuing to use frozen assets of the estate. It ordered them to pay a fine of $353.6 million (18.3 billion pesos) for the victims’ benefit.

Mark Navales contributed reporting from Cotabato City, Philippines.

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