Makati judge trashes petition against former Pres. Marcos

The Regional Trial Court of Makati has trashed a petition to enforce the judgment of the United District Court, District of Hawaii, 18 years ago that awarded compensatory and exemplary damages to human rights victims.

In an 11-page decision dated June 25, 2013, Judge Bonifacio S. Pascua of National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 56 of Makati City, dismissed the petition, saying that “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.”

“We feel vindicated because the judge (Pascua) recognized the arguments that we have been making for many years now,” Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. 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.

Under the TVPA, “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.

Pascua said that aside from the failure of the plaintiffs to exhaust remedies, 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,” he said.

Pascua also said that while the plaintiffs aim to enforce the judgment and write finis at least as far as the defendant’s assets in the Philippines are concerned, MDL No. 840 requires the delivery of the monies to the District of Hawaii for custody and final distribution.

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

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