SolGen seeks proper venue for settlement of Martial Law victims’ claims
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) on Thursday continued to reject the settlement deal for Martial Law victims as it renewed its call for the claims to be settled in the “proper venue.”
The OSG made the statement following the decision of a New York federal court to distribute $13.75 million settlement proceeds to human rights victims of Martial Law.
The settlement will come from paintings seized from former first lady Imelda Marcos.
“While the Republic fully recognizes that the human rights violation victims stand to benefit from this recent development, the government maintains its position that the proper venue for their claims are the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board or in the probate proceedings where the Marcos estate is being settled,” OSG said in a statement.
It said the decision was released despite the opposition of the Philippine government to the settlement deal.
The OSG said the deal “requires for the Republic to grant immunity to Vilma Bautista, and to cause the dismissal of the Republic’s claims to the paintings in the Sandiganbayan.”
It explained that the government cannot grant immunity to Bautista “as she is a principal defendant in Civil Case No. 07 currently pending before the Sandiganbayan.”
The PCGG can only grant immunity to “witness who can provide information or testify against a defendant in an ill-gotten wealth case.”
“Neither can the Republic dismiss its claims against the paintings in the forfeiture proceedings instituted before the Sandiganbayan, where the Republic has relentlessly prosecuted the recovery of all ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, including the subject paintings, since 1991,” OSG added.
Explaining why it rejected the loan agreement, OSG said: “OSG found the agreement to be grossly disadvantageous to the government and not in accord with existing Philippine laws and jurisprudence.”
The OSG also called out American lawyer Robert Smith who represents the Martial Law victims in the case.
It claimed that Smith’s intentions are not merely his willingness to help the victims, but also the millions of dollars that he would receive for handling the case.
“It appears that Swift’s determination to assert his clients’ claims wherever and whenever he deems possible is driven, not by the purely noble aim to seek justice and retribution for the human rights victims, but by the hefty attorney’s fees he stands to receive,” the OSG said.
“In the interpleader action alone, he has sought an unaccounted $4.125 million in attorney’s fees to be deducted from the alleged settlement fund of $13.75 ,illion,” the OSG added.
On Wednesday, Smith announced that the distribution of the settlement proceeds will begin on May 1 in Butuan City.
Each of the 9,539 Martial Law victims is expected to receive $1,500. /ee
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