Introduction: Class Suit – 1986

The Marcos human rights litigation is a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 9,539 Filipinos who were tortured, summarily executed or disappeared during the Marcos dictatorship. This was filed pursuant to the Alien Tort Act in the United States in 1986. The US court had jurisdiction over Marcos at that time because he had fled to Hawaii and therefore was in US territory. Conversely, the Philippine court had no jurisdiction over him at that time for the same reason.

The filing of the case was done in consonance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which both the US and the Philippines were signatories.

Under existing Philippine Supreme Court jurisprudence, “a foreign judgement is presumed to be valid and binding in the country from which it comes, until the contrarv is shown.”

With the assistance of their US lawyers, the Marcoses fully defended the case and raised every available defense right up to the US Supreme Court.

A jury trial with every element of due process resulted in an almost USD 2 billion judgment, or about USD 200,000 per victim. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the case on appeal. After the 90-day period for a final appeal to the US Supreme Court lapsed on 18 March 1997, the judgement attained finality. The latter refused to recognize Mrs. Imelda Marcos’ last-minute appeal.

The Marcos Swiss Accounts

In 1986, the Swiss government froze USD 356 million in Marcos assets hidden in various “foundation” accounts.

By December 1997, the accounts were worth USD 540 million.

The Swiss Supreme Court ruled in December 1997 that the Marcos money should be placed in an escrow account in the Philippines and released only on satisfaction of two conditions:

The Philippine government must obtain a final judgement in its own courts entitling it to the money; and

The Philippine government should compensate the victims of human rights violations who obtained the US judgement.

The Class Members

The 9,539 members in the human rights class suit against Marcos are all Filipinos and are predominantly from the rural poor who belong to the marginalized sector of Philippine society.

Over half of the victims are already deceased and their heirs are now entitled to share in the judgement.

Approximately one-third of the claimants are from Mindanao, a large proportion of whom are Muslims.

 

( Excerpts reprint from claimants1081 website)

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