Stop further delay of compensation to Marcos victims
The Philippines is appealing an award to human-rights victims of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the U.S. Supreme Court.
TIME is running out for many of the aging 9,500 human-rights victims of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be given a token share of the Marcos wealth. The Philippine government plans to appeal a federal appeals court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court
, further delaying the distribution of assets. The Bush administration should apply pressure for the payments to be made promptly.
A federal jury in Honolulu awarded $2 billion more than a decade ago to the victims, finding Marcos to blame for summary executions, disappearances and torture. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled in July 2004 that $35 million in a Merrill Lynch account opened by Marcos in 1972 be turned over to the victims.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Real's ruling in May, and the court refused to rehear the case last week. Camilo Sabio, chairman of the Presidential Commission, is insisting on appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.
The Philippine government claims ownership of the money because it was obtained illegally and never belonged to Marcos. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has said she would support legislation setting aside compensation for Marcos human-rights victims. However, Sabio, an Arroyo appointee, says a deal with the victims would be "grossly disadvantageous to the government" by setting a precedent.
The Philippine Supreme Court issued a ruling three years ago that awarded $683 million in frozen Marcos Swiss bank accounts that had been transferred to the Philippine government, and the 9th Circuit ruled last year that the victims had no right to recover that money. Lawyers for the victims in the Honolulu lawsuit are seeking $22 million in a Singapore bank account, also claimed by the Philippine government, and real estate in Colorado and Texas recorded under the name of Marcos crony Jose Y. Campos.
The Philippine government can lay claim to Marcos money in foreign countries, but the decisions should be made by courts in those countries -- not the Philippine court, as the 9th Circuit stated in last year's ruling. Any other conclusion would jeopardize the sovereignty of those countries, including the United States.
The Marcos money, of course, would return to the Philippines in any case. Most of the victims are poor and live in rural areas of the Philippines. Some already have died without receiving a peso in compensation, and that number will grow as the appeal process continues.
Arroyo has promised to give Marcos victims $200 million of the money recovered from the Swiss banks, but ill-gotten Marcos wealth is spent on land reform. The legislation needed to transfer it to victims should not be delayed.