US court OKs new distribution of $10 million to Marcos martial law victims

Gerry Lirio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2019 01:28 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2019 02:05 PM

Victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime stage a picket in front of the Martial Law Victims Claims board on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - An American judge who tried the class suit against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos has approved the proposal to award some $10 million more to some of his administration’s human rights victims.

Judge Manuel Real signed an order on March 28 approving a third distribution of funds, this time US$1,500 for each of 6,500 registered victims of Marcos’ martial law atrocities, according to American human rights lawyer Robert Swift in a statement sent to ABS-CBN News on Saturday.

This amounts to roughly $9.75 million or more than P500 million.

Judge’s Real’s approval came after he granted a $13.75-million settlement charged against the proceeds of the sale of seized art pieces once owned by Marcos’ widow, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos.

Swift and his Filipino counterpart Rod Domingo will start the distribution of checks to human rights victims on May 1 in six cities in Mindanao. The distribution will continue in other cities sometime in July.

Swift initiated the litigation in New York following the sale of a famous “Water Lily” painting by Imelda’s aide Vilma Bautista for $32 million. Bautista was indicted, convicted and at present incarcerated in New York for offenses related to the sale.

The artwork litigation in a New York court spanned six years and involved claims by the human rights victims, the Philippine government, and Bautista herself.

Swift said the $13.75 million will come from the proceeds in the sale of four paintings—one by Claude Monet, leader of the French impressionist movement, and three others sold in auction last November for over $3 million.

The Philippine government, which refused to implement the Hawaii court’s verdict awarding the victims with a $2-billion indemnification package charged against the Marcos estate, would get about $4 million, also in May, as provided for by the New York court ruling on the sale of the paintings.

A third party known as the Golden Buddha Corporation and the estate of Roger Roxas--the man who supposedly discovered the Yamashita treasure in Baguio City, which Marcos allegedly seized in the 1970s-- will get a few million also this May.

All the three paintings are believed to have been part of some 200 art collections Imelda accumulated over her husband’s 20-year regime, marked by killings, enforced disappearances and the plunder of state coffers.