Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US judge clears payments in Marcos torture lawsuit

REUTERS , HONOLULU

Thousands of plaintiffs alleging human-rights abuses moved closer to receiving US$40 million from the assets of late Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos after a federal judge ruled in their favor on Monday.

US District Judge Manuel Real denied a motion from Arelma Corp -- a Panamanian company created by Marcos in 1972 to control some of his money -- that sought to freeze assets suspected of belonging to Marcos, according to court papers filed on Monday.

The class action of 9,539 Filipinos who successfully sued the Marcos estate in US federal court was awarded US$2 billion in 1995. The class includes people who claim to have been imprisoned and tortured by the Marcos government and survivors of those who were executed.

To date, the plaintiffs have not received any money. The money has been held in escrow while the courts decided who should receive it. Real ruled "it would be unjust" to deny the plaintiffs the money from the Arelma account.

"This is our first major collection," said Sherry Broder, the Honolulu attorney representing the plaintiffs. "We want to collect more. We intend to continue to push ahead."

Broder did not know when any of the plaintiffs or their heirs would receive the money because Arelma's attorneys have said they would appeal the decision.

Attorneys representing Arelma asked the judge for a stay until an appeal could be filed, Broder said. The judge refused to issue one.

Marcos was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. During that time, he ordered tens of thousands of people arrested or detained without charges, court papers stated.

Thousands were subject to "hideous" tortures and "thousands more were summarily executed and others simply disappeared," the court papers said.

Marcos left the Philippines in February 1986 and lived in Hawaii until his death in 1989.

The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows human rights victims to sue if a US court has jurisdiction over the defendant.

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