January 14, 2011 8:08am
HONOLULU — A federal judge on Thursday approved the distribution of $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of victims of torture, execution and abduction under the regime of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
The distribution provides victims their first opportunity to collect something since they sued in 1986.
Each of the 7,526 eligible members of the class-action lawsuit will receive $1,000 under the plan approved by US District Judge Manuel Real. Distribution is expected to begin in mid-February and take about a month.
Robert Swift, the lead attorney in the case, said the payments were an important milestone for victims who have been fighting for years. Most of the victims or their surviving family members live in the Philippines.
“We know they are anxious for distribution. Most of our members are poor, very poor, and live in a Third World country that hasn’t compensated them for any injuries they suffered, or loss of loved ones,” Swift said during a hearing at a federal court in Honolulu.
The funds come from a $10 million settlement of a case against individuals controlling Texas and Colorado land bought with Marcos money. Legal fees and a payment to the person who located the properties will consume most of the remaining $2.5 million of the settlement.
The victims’ payments will go a short way toward fulfilling a $2 billion judgment against the Marcos estate in 1995. A federal jury awarded the money after finding the late dictator liable for torture, summary executions and disappearances of political opponents during his 20-year rule.
The victims never received any funds until now, however, because of disputes over Marcos’ property. The Philippine government maintains all Marcos property was stolen from the Filipino people and has fought any distribution to victims of human rights violations.
This latest case was an exception, however, because Manila had already settled its own claim against the people who control the land in Colorado and Texas.
Swift hopes the victims will receive more money, noting his team is still pursuing $70 million in Marcos assets through courts in New York and Singapore.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in Hawaii because Marcos fled to Honolulu to live in exile after he was deposed in the “people power” revolution of 1986.
Marcos died in exile in 1989 without admitting any wrongdoing. — AP