Philippines victims to finally get Marcos compensation

MANILA (Reuters) – Filipinos imprisoned and tortured and the families of those murdered during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos may finally get compensation after more than 20 years of legal wrangling, an American rights lawyer said on Wednesday.

Marcos, who died in 1989, and his family are accused of stealing about $10 billion (5.24 billion pounds) in deposits, shares, jewellery, artwork and property from the Philippines but only a fraction of that has been recovered and the funds given for land reform.

Robert Swift said that 7,500 rights victims and their families were expected to receive $2,000 each in initial compensation early next year following a 2004 decision by a court in Hawaii, where Marcos was exiled.

The Philippines’ cash-strapped government has been disputing the payout because it argues compensation should be routed through it.

“I think the Philippine government, at this point, knows that it lost and was playing a delaying game,” Swift told reporters, adding that the government could delay the payout by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ramon Casiple, a political analyst and a leader of Claimants 1081, a group seeking compensation from the Marcoses, said martial law victims had been forgotten in the 20 years since Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt.

“We’re happy because it would be a vindication of all our efforts,” he said.

Casiple said rights victims also hoped to get 10 billion pesos (about 105 million pounds) from assets recovered by the Philippine government after the two houses of Congress approved a compensation bill this year after more than a decade’s delay.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was expected to sign the legislation next month.

The initial payout in February would come out of $35 million currently held in an account at U.S. bank Merrill Lynch. Marcos deposited money with the lender in 1973 using a suspected dummy company.

Since 1986, about 61.83 billion pesos ($1.2 billion) in cash, including Swiss bank deposits, has been recovered and 23 billion pesos in shares, property and jewellery has yet to be liquidated.

But the bulk of Marcos’ local assets, amounting to about 222 billion pesos, are still locked in nearly 600 lawsuits in various courts, while nearly $80 million in assets abroad are also being litigated.

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