court.rejects

President Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda in a file photo.


MANILA — Lawyers of the close to 10,000 victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos dictatorship slammed the recent decision of Makati trial court Judge Bonifacio Pascua dismissing their petition to enforce the 18-year-old ruling of a U.S. court awarding them more than $2 billion in damages.

In dismissing the victims’ petition, Pascua said, “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.”

He said the plaintiffs had failed to prove that they had exhausted all legal remedies for redress, as well as to “come up with a credible and validated list of claimants.”

Pascua also said that the U.S. District Court in Hawaii, which awarded the damages, could not compel him “to take directions apart from the processes available locally.”

In a statement issued last Tuesday, three of the victims’ lawyers — Rod Domingo Jr., Robert Swift and Ruben Fruto — said that Pascua erred in saying the U.S. court had no jurisdiction.

Domingo said in the statement that, “Apparently Judge Pascua believes he understands U.S. law better than all the judges in the United States. The judge also seems oblivious to the fact that the class of victims was certified by a U.S. court and there is a comprehensive database of the victims’ names, addresses and other details maintained for the court.”

He explained that the reason the list was not made public was “for fear of retribution against the victims.”

In fact, he said, the recently enacted Human Rights Compensation Act “refers specifically to the list of 9,539 class members. Obviously, Congress has better information and understanding than Judge Pascua.”
  
The victims’ lawyers recalled that in 2006, the Supreme Court reversed the September 1998 dismissal by Judge Santiago Ranada of the victims’ bid to enforce the 1995 U.S. court decision against the Marcos estate.

Ranada had contended that the victims had failed to pay the correct filing fee, which he computed at $8.4 million.

However, the High Court remanded the case to the trial court “with the warning that any ‘contumacious delay of the decision on the merits will not be brooked...’”

“Seven years later, Judge Pascua dismissed the action, taunting the victims that they should re-file their original case in the Philippines even though many are aged or deceased,” the lawyers said.

“In effect, he reinstated the collective filing fee of $8.4 million, which the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in 2006 was incorrect and outrageous,” they added.

Swift said: “The U.S. judgment (against Marcos) has been cited worldwide, in the U.S. Supreme Court, the British House of Lords and hundreds of court decisions and law review articles.”

“When a Philippine trial court fails to accord respect to the decision of a foreign court in a historic and well-examined case, he risks the loss of comity to decisions of his country’s own courts,” he warned.

“Why should a U.S. court, or any foreign court, recognize a decision of a Philippine court when egregious errors are committed by the Philippine judiciary?”