The fund was transferred days after New York district court Judge Katherine Polk Failla affirmed the settlement agreement that will divide some $20 million worth of ill-gotten assets recovered in the United States.
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$13.75 M transferred to Marcos victims’ fund
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A New York court has released the $13.75 million that will be used for the upcoming fund distribution to victims of human rights violations during the martial law period.

American human rights lawyer Robert Swift, in an email to The STAR, said the money for the distribution has been transferred to the settlement fund created after the successful $2-billion class action suit filed against the Marcos family in 1995.

The fund was transferred days after New York district court Judge Katherine Polk Failla affirmed the settlement agreement that will divide some $20 million worth of ill-gotten assets recovered in the United States. 

The money came from the sale of the properties seized from Vilma Bautista, an aide of former first lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos.

Among those recovered from her were valuable paintings believed to have been purchased using government funds during the Marcos dictatorship.

A previous court filing showed that the properties seized from Bautista were deposited with the New York clerk of court pending resolution of the different claims filed over the properties.

In January, the parties – including members of the class action and the Philippine government – agreed to settle and divide the funds, with the victims receiving $13.75 million and the government $4 million.

A third party, the Golden Buddha Corp. and the estate of Roger Roxas that allegedly discovered the Yamashita treasure, would also get a portion of the proceeds from the sale of some of the paintings. 

Last month, however, the Philippine government backed down from the settlement after the Office of the Solicitor General found it “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.

It said the Philippines will instead pursue its claim to all of the assets recovered from Bautista in the cases filed before the Sandiganbayan.

But citing Failla’s ruling, Swift last week said the judge affirmed the settlement after finding that the Philippine attorney in New York “had actual and apparent authority to bind the Republic to the settlement.”

OSG slams Leni

Solicitor General Jose Calida yesterday slammed Vice President Leni Robredo for accusing him of lawyering for the Marcos family in the cases before US courts involving human rights victims of martial law.

In a statement, Calida said the insinuations by Robredo were “outright lies.”

“She must be confused. Her statements demean and belittle the work the OSG and its lawyers have been doing for decades to recover ill-gotten wealth,” he stressed.

Calida explained that the position taken by his office and the Department of Justice is for the interest of the government.

He said the government rejected the proposed settlement agreement in the New York court case because it was grossly disadvantageous to the government that would get only $4 million from the settlement. 

He further explained that the proposed settlement required that the Philippine government grant immunity to Bautista and move to dismiss the cases against her in the Sandiganbayan. 

“The government cannot grant immunity to Vilma Bautista. She is a principal defendant in a case currently pending before the Sandiganbayan. The authority of the PCGG to grant such immunity is limited only to a witness who can provide material and relevant information or testify against a defendant in an ill-gotten wealth case,” Calida said.

The top government counsel stressed that the OSG also opposed the grant of attorney’s fees to lawyers of the human rights victims. 

“Even the human rights claimants will get the wrong end of the deal in the case. Their lawyer Robert Swift has sought a hefty $4.125 million in attorney’s fees out of the $13.75 million, while the rest would be divided among the 6,500 claimants, who will receive a measly $1,500 each,” he pointed out.

In addition to advanced costs, the US lawyers noted that they have spent over 40,000 hours since the class action was filed in 1986, translating to fees of about $25 million.

In their motion, the lawyers told Real that the estimated 6,500 members of the class action would still be able to receive $1,500 each even if he approves their $4.125 million request.

“While class counsel hope to recover more Marcos funds in satisfaction of the class judgments, the prospect for future recoveries is dim. Despite 22 years of litigation in Philippine courts, those courts have so far refused to recognize the judgments of this court,” they said.

“Class counsel continue to spend time and effort seeking recognition of the judgments in the Philippines, relying on the effort of Philippine co-counsel. The current political situation in the Philippines, where the heirs of Ferdinand Marcos have gained ascendancy, bodes ill for the class’ prospects,” they added.

The distribution of the $1,500 to members of the class action will begin on May 1. With Edu Punay

HUMAN RIGHTS
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