By Mary Adamski
Thursday, February 25, 1999
Settlement will compensate victims for torture, detention and executions
Money that the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos stashed in Swiss banks will finally find its way into the hands of his victims and their families under a $150 million settlement announced yesterday.
The agreement between the Marcos family and the Philippine government ends a 13-year legal battle to get compensation for human rights violations during Marcos’ 20-year regime that ended when he was ousted in 1986.
The settlement money will go to 135 people who brought suit and 9,500 others covered when U.S. District Judge Manuel Real of California extended the case to a class action covering victims of torture, illegal detention and execution.
“This result holds a dictator accountable and finally fulfills the goal we sought in 1986 when Ferdinand Marcos fled to Honolulu from the Philippines,” said Sherry Broder, a Honolulu attorney who was one of the lawyers for the victims.
She said each victim who brought suit will receive between $10,000 and $125,000, depending on the extent of the atrocities suffered. The people covered by the class action suit will receive a prorated share for similar suffering. The heirs of 750 victims who disappeared and 2,500 people who were summarily executed will receive the compensation.
“For them the settlement will be very meaningful because for the most part, they lost the family’s main breadwinner,” she said.
“The events took place 25 years ago, a generation ago. The settlement will make a big change in their circumstances.”
Attorneys Broder and Robert Swift of Philadelphia tried the case before a jury in Honolulu because Marcos lived here until his death in 1989. Jurors awarded $1.2 billion for punitive damages and $775 million for suffering in the trial that ended in 1996.
The long legal battle also involved eight federal court appeals and legal actions in courts in the Philippines and Switzerland. Several attorneys have been involved, including University of Hawaii law professor Jon Van Dyke, who assisted in complicated legal issues of international law, Broder said.
In December 1997, the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that $100 million of about $500 million of Marcos assets frozen in Swiss bank accounts should be placed in an escrow account in the Philippine National Bank and used to compensate human rights victims.
Meeting with Swift in September, Philippines President Jose Estrada offered to gain the cooperation of the Marcos family. The parties reached the $150 million agreement in December, Broder said.
Judge Real, who sits in the Central California Federal District Court, will preside at an April 14 hearing in Honolulu Federal District Court where he is expected to give approval to the agreement.