Martial law victims’ lawyer eyes settlement with Duterte over $41-M Marcos assets

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2019 02:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 09 2019 07:38 PM

Martial Law Claimants Lawyer Robert Swift delivers his speech during a forum at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law at the Diliman Campus in Quezon City on July 09, 2019. The forum was attended by Human Rights victims' families and their surviving relatives who until now, are still waiting for justice to be served. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—The American lawyer of martial law victims is seeking an audience with President Rodrigo Duterte for a settlement on $41 million in assets recovered from the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the US. 

Lawyer Robert Swift wants to distribute part of the amount to members of the Hawaii class action suit, who were awarded nearly $2 billion in 1995.

Swift and his legal team have since been trying to recover Marcos assets to enforce the landmark ruling.

The latest target is the $41-million fund deposited under Panamanian firm Arelma in New York in 1972.

The amount had been forfeited in favor of the Philippine government, but Swift is calling for a settlement to make sure part of it will go straight to the victims.

“I’m trying to collect on my judgment against the Marcos estate,” he told ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of a human rights forum in Quezon City on Tuesday.

“I’ve been trying to meet with President Duterte to discuss the settlement but so far, there is no settlement under discussion.”

Swift said government could “divide the money” with martial law victims.

COLLECTIVE AMNESIA

The lawyer is wrapping up the third round of distribution of checks worth $13.75 million to some 6,500 class suit members.

The amount came from the proceeds of the sale of paintings recovered from a former secretary of Imelda Marcos.

Swift said 90 percent of the checks had been distributed nationwide since May 1, each amounting to $1,500.

A group of martial law victims from Tarlac came to the University of the Philippines human rights forum to protest their exclusion from Swift’s list of eligible beneficiaries

“Kulang kami sa kaalaman. Hindi namin alam yung proseso. Marami po sa amin ang na-deny na totoong biktima,” a tearful Helen Jimenez, 72, told the forum.

Jimenez said her husband was abducted in August 1985 and was never found.

She said she had received a separate compensation through a 2013 law that recognized human rights victims during the Marcos regime.

The amount came from P10 billion in Marcos’ secret Swiss bank deposits.

Asked what could be done with the unclaimed checks from this government distribution which ended last year, Swift cited the need to fund an education campaign on the “brutality” of martial law.

“One of the things that I’m constantly reminded of is the collective amnesia of Filipinos to martial law,” he said.