IN THE KNOW: Arelma account
The contested $40-million Arelma asset of the Marcoses was first deposited by the late President Ferdinand Marcos in an account with Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. in New York in 1972.
At the time, it was estimated to be $2 million. When the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) discovered the secret account in 2000, it had already grown to $35 million.
Arelma Inc. is a Panamanian corporation believed to have been used as a dummy by the Marcos family for a Swiss bank account. Merrill Lynch Inc. is a New York-based brokerage company.
In July 2000, the PCGG asked Merrill Lynch to turn over the Arelma assets to the Philippine government, proposing that they be placed in escrow with the Philippine National Bank while the antigraft court Sandiganbayan had yet to rule on whether the funds belonged to the government or to the Marcos estate.
The proposal was rejected by Merrill Lynch, citing the existence of other claimants.
The money in the account was also being claimed by at least 9,000 victims of human rights abuse during the martial law regime of Marcos.
In 2004, Hawaii District Judge Manuel Real ordered the Philippine government to give the money in the account to the human rights claimants.
Asserting sovereign immunity, the Philippine government said the case could not proceed in US courts.
In December last year, the US Supreme Court stepped into the dispute, following appeals from the Philippine government.
The willingness of lower US courts to nonetheless get involved “raises significant concerns,” the US Solicitor General said in a filing in the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General represents the US government in cases in the Supreme Court.
The ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which threw out a Philippine motion for review in 2006, prejudices cases in the Philippines on the same issue, the US Solicitor General said. Inquirer Research
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