$150 millionBy Lori Tighe
The Ferdinand Marcos family's refusal to accept any liability for the late dictator's human rights violations sends a dangerous signal to dictators around the world, objectors told a federal judge yesterday.
But U.S. District Judge Manuel Real insisted the statement in a settlement of the cases against Marcos was nothing more than a legal nicety commonly found in lawsuits and in no way diminishes the verdict.
After hearing the four objectors who traveled from the Philippines to voice their concerns, the judge approved the $150 million settlement yesterday afternoon with conditions.
The money will go to 135 people who brought the suit and as many as 9,500 others covered under the suit as victims of torture, illegal detention and execution. Each will get an estimated $10,000 to $14,000, after legal fees are paid. The average annual salary in the Philippines is about $2,000.
"The money will be as forthcoming as possible," said former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, speaking on behalf of Philippines President Joseph E. Estrada.
The millions must be sent to federal court in Honolulu and deposited into an account by May 10, Real ordered. The Philippine government has until May 31 to file objections to any of the claimants. Then the money will be distributed to the victims.
Although Real told the objectors the statement denying wrongdoing was a boilerplate legal formality, the objectors said the Marcos family would use it as propaganda to clear their reputation.
"I am opposed to the agreement. It virtually exonerates Ferdinand E. Marcos of human rights violations," said Aurora Parong, 48, a medical doctor and member of the class lawsuit. She was detained illegally for more than a year between 1982 and 1983 by the Marcos regime.
The judge defended the settlement: "It doesn't say he's not guilty."
Parong, who helped 6,000 people join the lawsuit, said many of the class members didn't even see a copy of the settlement, only a notice informing them of it. She also said at least 145 members of the suit objected to the settlement.
"This is a landmark case and we want it to remain that way," said Amaryllis Enriquez, an objector. "It involves hundreds of disappearances, torture and execution. It is not a simple civil case."
Objector Neri Colmeneres insisted he couldn't agree to a settlement where the Marcoses continue to maintain their innocence.
"They want to refurbish their image. It's very dangerous to other Marcoses and other dictators to the rest of the world," he said.
Without the Marcoses' atonement or remorse for their actions, the settlement will be meaningless, he said.
But Real responded, "The settlement doesn't wipe out the verdict."
"The propaganda of the settlement nullifies the verdict," Colmeneres countered.
He compared the Marcoses' refusal to accept guilt to World War II Nazis' refusal to acknowledge atrocities against Jews.