InterAksyon - Makati judge stops awarding of $2.26 B in damages to martial law victims, Sen. Bongbong lauds ruling

14 July 2013

By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon

MANILA, Philippines -- Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Sunday lauded the decision of a Makati Regional Trial Court trashing the petition to enforce the 18-year-old judgment of the United States District Court in Hawaii that awarded compensatory and exemplary damages to human rights victims during martial law.

In a statement issue on Sunday, the son and namesake of the former dictator said that their family felt vindicated by the decision.

“We feel vindicated because the judge (Pascua) recognized the arguments that we have been making for many years now,” Marcos said, referring to the 11-page decision dated June 25, 2013 penned by Judge Bonifacio S. Pascua of National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 56 of Makati City, dismissing the petition thus: “The final judgment in the case MDL No. 840 against the estate of the late Ferdinand R. Marcos et. al. is not conclusive yet, but presumptive evidence of a right of the petitioners against the Marcos estate.”

Marcos said the petition stemmed from a verdict on February 3, 1995 by the US District Court awarding plaintiffs Priscila C Mijares et. al. $2,260,000,000 as compensatory and exemplary damages after they won in the Class Action MDL 840. On May 21, 1997, the plaintiffs filed a petition for enforcement of the foreign judgment here in the Philippines.

“In his decision, Pascua said the plaintiffs have not presented any new evidence and that they anchored their cause of action in Hawaii upon the Torture of Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which was signed by President George H. W. Bush on March 12, 1992,” Marcos said in the statement.

Quoting the TVPA, Marcos said “a court shall decline to hear a claim…if the claimant has not exhausted adequate and available remedies in the place in which the conduct giving rise to the claim occurred.”

“Instead of presenting rebuttal evidence to counter defendant’s theory of non-exhaustion of remedies, plaintiffs pleaded for a decision. It is very apparent that they are in deep haste to conclude this case, as the records show that their counsels at the onset of this presiding judge’s handling the case, always hammered on their constitutional right to a speedy disposition of their case,” Pascua said in his ruling.

Marcos explained that Pascua ruled that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust remedies. The judge also noted that the 1995 Final Order in MDL No. 840 displays the glairing absence of the list of plaintiffs under each of the selected class claims, such as torture subclass, summary execution subclass, and disappearance subclass.

“In other words, despite the lapse of 18 years after the promulgation, plaintiffs have not come up with a credible and validated list of claimants. At best, the filing of this case is therefore premature owing to the absence of a legitimate list of claimants to whom pecuniary award may have been adjudged,” Marcos said quoting part of the decision.

While the plaintiffs aim to enforce the judgment and write finis to the defendant’s assets in the Philippines, MDL No. 840 requires the delivery of the monies to the District of Hawaii for custody and final distribution, Marcos explained, again citing Pascua’s decision.

“This court cannot be compelled let alone commanded by a foreign court of equal jurisdictions to take directions apart from the processes available locally,” Pascua said.