Marcos victims get P77,500 each amid objection from gov’t
BUTUAN CITY—At least 140 victims of torture, summary execution and enforced disappearance during the Marcos dictatorship or members of their families each received a check for P77,500 as part of the compensation awarded by a Hawaii district court, which ruled on a class action suit against the estate of Ferdinand Marcos.
It was the third payout ordered by the court after Marcos was overthrown in 1986.
About 6,500 registered members of the class suit, or their duly appointed heirs, will each receive the peso equivalent of $1,500.
The checks were to be distributed nationwide to the documented members, starting in Butuan City on Wednesday. These were personally handed over by American lawyer Robert Swift, who led the legal battle for victims of human rights violations.
In March, District Court Judge Manuel Real, who has presided over the Marcos litigation since 1990, approved a $13.75-million settlement to the victims from the $32-million proceeds from the sale of four paintings previously acquired by Marcos’ widow, Imelda.
The paintings, including one of Impressionist master Claude Monet’s famous “Water Lily” series, disappeared in 1986 and surfaced in July 2013 after the arrest of Imelda’s former aide, Vilma Bautista.
The class was awarded about $2 billion in compensation, but the full amount could not be paid out because the Marcoses were still hiding their wealth, according to human rights lawyers.
In 2011, Swift’s law firm handed out the first tranche amounting to P43,000, and the second tranche of P50,000 in 2013.
Most of the claimants, who lost their loved ones to atrocities during the Marcos regime, are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s.
Under litigation since 1990
One of those who received a check in Butuan was Lucresia Monte, 64, whose brother, Felix, then only 24, was among 12 people massacred by members of the dreaded anticommunist group “Lost Command.”
The victims were mowed down on June 23, 1983, at the village of Lucena in Prosperidad town, Agusan del Sur province.
Swift said the high number of responses to the Labor Day release of the checks was a good sign, considering that the notices were sent to the claimants through the Philippine postal system.
Monte said she did not receive her notice by post. Her daughter, who works in Manila, sent a text message informing her about a Facebook post regarding the May 1 distribution of checks in Butuan for claimants from the Caraga region.
Swift’s team had problems reaching all the members of the Hawaii class suit because some had not updated their addresses where notices were to be mailed.
He noted that one young recipient named “Jerry” was allowed to get his late father’s compensation after he complied with all requirements, including a Special Power of Attorney and a death certificate.
Others went home empty-handed.
One of them was Norma Montenegro, 62, whose husband, farmer Max Victor, was executed by soldiers of the defunct Philippine Constabulary in Tago town in Surigao del Sur in 1983. Max Victor was not listed on the claim sheets prepared by Swift’s staff.
Monte made sure she had all documents to prove that her brother and the 11 others were summarily executed.
She said the victims were frisked by the heavily armed Lost Command members near their barangay hall on that fateful day in 1983.
Felix was made to hold a firearm by one of the gunmen purportedly to teach him how to fire a rifle, but he was instead peppered with bullets, she said.
“The gunman who saw my brother still gasping for breath finished him off [with a bullet to the] head and even mutilated his organs,” Monte said.
The bodies of the 12 men were later buried in a mass grave behind the municipal hall.
Zeny Mique, executive director of Claimants 1081, a group of martial law victims that was designated to assist in the distribution of the checks, said she hoped the payout would be finished by July 12.
OSG, DOJ, PCGG position
The distribution proceeded as scheduled despite the objections from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
Under a settlement that the three agencies earlier agreed to, the martial law victims would receive a total of $13.75 million from the sale of the paintings, the government would get $4 million, and the remainder would be split between Golden Buddha Corp. and the estate of Roger Roxas, who discovered the so-called Yamashita treasure.
On April 3, the OSG, DOJ and the PCGG announced their March 11 decision that the government would no longer agree to the settlement “in the best interest of the republic.”
The OSG said it would block the distribution of the money because the deal gave criminal immunity to the former first lady’s aide, who stashed the paintings.
It said that the settlement also waived the government’s claims over the prized artworks.
Moreover, the OSG said Swift would get $4.125 million in attorney’s fees, more than what the government was to get.
Mique, however, said the distribution could no longer be stopped since the money had already been transferred by New York Judge Katherine Failla to Hawaii Judge Real, who ruled in favor of the claimants. —WITH REPORTS FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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