Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CHR to handle Marcos claims - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

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CHR to handle Marcos claims - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:29:00 01/16/2011

Filed Under: Human Rights, Crime and Law and Justice, Government offices & agencies

MANILA, Philippines—The actual number of claimants that stand to gain from the payout from a class-action suit against the Marcoses may be more than the 7,526 on the official list, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Ann “Etta” Rosales said.

In a phone interview Saturday, Rosales said the CHR is expecting more victims of human-rights abuses during the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to come forward now that the court has announced the distribution of the settlement.

A federal judge in Honolulu approved on Thursday the distribution of $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of victims of torture, execution and abduction under the Marcos regime.

$1,000 each

Each eligible member of the class-action lawsuit will be awarded $1,000 under the plan approved by US District Judge Manuel Real.

The distribution provides the victims their first opportunity to collect something since they sued in 1986. The funds for the settlement come from Marcos-acquired land in the American states of Texas and Colorado.

According to Rosales, there were 9,539 claimants when the case was filed in 1986. But this figure was reduced to about 7,500 when some claimants did not reply to two letters from the court attesting their identities.

Rosales, who used to head the Claimants 1081, a group of abuse victims, said there might be some claimants who did not get the letters and were unable to reply to it.

Those who replied to the letters are included in the 7,526 names listed in the class suit and who are eligible to secure compensation.

“As far as class suits go, those who sent a reply to the second letter will be prioritized,” Rosales said.

In her personal opinion, Rosales said the 2,000 names stricken off the original list of 9,539 may also be entitled to the settlement.

But if the court is adamant that they are not included in the present pay-out, they could still receive compensation in the future, she said.

The CHR official said they will collect the names of those who claim to be human rights victims but are not on the official list.

“If not to the claims of the class suit, they are entitled to compensation under the Compensation Bill,” Rosales said.

The human-rights compensation bill, which failed to pass in the last two Congresses, provides for compensation to about 10,000 victims of involuntary disappearances, torture, murders, rape and harassment during the Marcos years.

More than a month

A law is needed to compensate the human-rights victims because the sequestered ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is otherwise set aside for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

Rosales said Robert Swift, the lead counsel, estimated that the distribution will take about a month, but Rosales said it could take longer.

She noted that the CHR and the lawyers have to contact the claimants, many of whom live in remote rural areas. The verification of the claimants’ identities will be up to the lawyers, she noted.

Rosales said the CHR was contacted by Swift last November to help out in the distribution of the claims.

Last week, the agency issued a resolution allowing itself to be used as the “physical venue” for the claims, Rosales said.

The CHR official said details of how the funds will go to the claimants have yet to be ironed out.

However, Rosales noted that there could be a memorandum of agreement between the private lawyers and the CHR in the near future to facilitate the distribution.

Satur Ocampo, a former representative of the party-list group Bayan Muna and one of the claimants, said the $1,000 pay out may be “loose change” to the Marcoses, but it was a recognition of the abuses done during the martial law years.

“It is a confirmation, an acknowledgment that the Marcoses had amassed ill-gotten wealth,” he said.

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