Malacañang said martial law victims are entitled to compensation, following a United States federal judge’s approval to transfer the proceeds from the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ ill-gotten assets earlier this week. 

New York City district court Judge Katherine Polk Failla on Tuesday, April 9 signed the order that mandates the transfer of $13.75 million (P715 million) from the retrieved properties of the Marcos family to the victims of the human rights violations. 

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo recognized that there were people who suffered during the dictatorial rule of the late president. However, he noted that each regime has had its fair share of violations committed against the people. 

“I’m sure there must have been victims during critical times. There will certainly be abuses committed in whatever regime that the governor or the president would not know about,” Panelo said at a press briefing. 

The spokesperson noted that “just the same, if there are victims of a violation of human rights, certainly they should be compensated.” He clarified that the administration does not tolerate those who defy the administration. 

“It would be different if you are an enemy of the government. If you kill people in government, you cannot say that you are a victim. If you want to kill the soldiers of the government and then they retaliate. But those caught in the crossfire can be considered victims,” he said. 

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, said compensating the victims would not benefit the government and be in accordance with Philippine laws. 

“While the Republic fully recognizes that the human rights violation victims stand to benefit from this recent development, the government maintains its position that the proper venue for their claims are the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board or in the probate proceedings where the Marcos estate is being settled. This procedure was recognized in the rulings of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court and United States Department of Justice amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court,” the office said in a statement. 

The OSG also criticized American lawyer Robert Swift, who represented the victims in court, for being more concerned about getting his attorney’s fees rather than the “purely noble aim to seek justice” by helping his clients obtain their share of the $30-million sale of paintings allegedly owned by former first lady Imelda Marcos.  

“In the interpleader action alone, he has sought an unaccounted $4.125 million in attorney’s fees to be deducted from the alleged settlement fund of $13.75 million — the remaining amount to be divided amongst the 6,500 human rights victims who shall receive a measly $1,500 each,” the OSG added. 

The paintings were believed to have been part of some 200 art collections former first lady Imelda Marcos accumulated over her husband’s 20-year rule. The U.S. court has been adamant on locating the rest of the paintings.

Panelo said that he has not talked to Solicitor General Jose Calida about his opinion on the compensation for martial law victims, noting “I do not know exactly the grounds for the opposition of this solicitor general. I have to know that before I can make a proper intelligent response.”

Groups rally for support of reparation

Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Loretta Ann Rosales, who was a victim of the dictatorial rule herself, urged the administration to support the reparation of the martial law victims.  

“I cannot understand and imagine why the government should not support a ruling, a foreign judgment that is actually helping the poor,” Rosales said during a phone interview as reported by The Philippine Star. 

“The fears (that something may prevent the distribution) are always there and we should be ready for the worst. But we can always appeal to the government to be compassionate,” Rosales added. 

Claimants 1081 Executive Director Zenaida Mique called for the government to secure the distribution of the settlement proceeds. She stated: “we trust that the Philippine government will honor the ruling. We call on President Duterte to support the distribution.”

“A compassionate government should be more than willing to protect and make sure that this distribution goes through very smoothly. This is exactly what these poor people need,” Mique added. 

A total of $13.75 million or about P715 million will be transferred from the retrieved properties of the Marcos family to the 6,500 eligible class members. 

The compensation for the victims will amount to $10,712,157 after covering the counsel fee, incentive award, collective costs and expenses of counsel, and cost of distribution. Each class member will receive $1,500 while $762,157 will remain in the fund. 

The family of victims claiming the settlement proceeds must bring the letter sent by the lawyers’ team with two valid identification cards bearing their photos. In the case of deceased victims, the next of kin may be able to receive the check.

This marks the third round of compensation from the U.S. court for the victims after they were awarded $1,000 and $1,100 in previous wins. 

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