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Fact check: KBL bet's claim that there is no proof of Martial Law abuses is wrong

Philstar.com
Fact check: KBL bet's claim that there is no proof of Martial Law abuses is wrong
Screengrab shows suspended lawyer Larry Gadon in a heated exchange with labor leader Luke Espiritu.
Philstar.com Screengrab / SMNI News on YouTube

MANILA, Philippines — At the SMNI Senatorial Debates last week, suspended lawyer Larry Gadon claimed incorrectly that there is no proof of human rights violations during the Martial Law dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, whose son and namesake has included him in the UniTeam slate of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas and Lakas-CMD parties.

His basis? A case that was dismissed by the Court of Appeals. 

CLAIM: Petitioners who filed a class suit before the appellate court presented no evidence of human rights violations under the Marcos regime, leading to the case eventually being junked, the suspended lawyer said. 

RATING: This is false. 

FACTS: The country's own laws and the Supreme Court hold otherwise, while the case in question was dismissed for entirely different reasons. 

What was said 

Gadon, running under the Marcos-era Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, claimed that the Martial Law victims had no evidence to present to the local court and to the Court of Appeals over a class suit docketed as Class Action No. MDL 840.

"When there was a case in Hawaii, the 10,000 human rights victims implemented the case in the country, they filed a petition at the Regional Trial Court, they couldn’t provide evidence," he said in Filipino. 

"Even in the Court of Appeals, there was none, so where’s the human rights violation that they are talking about?"

At the same debates, UniTeam candidate Harry Roque — a former spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte — tried to insulate former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from the abuses during the elder Marcos' administration. 

"Whatever happened in the past, I checked the records one by one and there was no case of human rights violations in the US against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. I also checked individually the cases decided by the Philippine Supreme Court, and it was true, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. was co-administrator but there was no case to prove that he plundered," Roque said in Filipino.  

What they left out 

The Court of Appeals decision cited by Gadon said that the case was dismissed because of lack of jurisdiction, not for lack of evidence. The same decision also noted that the right to due process of the unnamed claimants was violated.

The 12th Division of the CA held that the decision by the Hawaii district court was not binding as it did not have jurisdiction over the class suit docketed as Class Action No. MDL 840 that included unnamed claimants.

It cited a violation of the right to due process of all the unnamed claimants as well as the respondent Marcos estate.

"To our minds, the failure of the final judgment to meet the standards of what a valid judgment is in our country compels us to deny its enforcement," read the 19-page ruling penned by CA Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro.

"Rules of comity should not be made to prevail over our Constitution and we cannot allow foreign impositions to trample upon our sovereignty,” the ruling reads.

The Marcos dictatorship saw thousands imprisoned, tortured, killed, and disappeared — a fact that was recognized by the Hawaii court and affirmed by the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 and the Philippine Supreme Court in 2003.

Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act also recognizes that there “were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations” under the Marcos regime.

That law formed a board that would evaluate claims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime. Although passed during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, the work of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB) and the payment of reparations extended into the Duterte administration.

The Supreme Court has already ruled three times that the Marcos family committed fraud on a massive scale at the height of its patriarch's Martial Law regime between 1965 and 1986. The High Court has also ordered them to repay the millions of dollars stolen from government coffers.

The Official Gazette, too, has released numerous publications about the Marcos regime, which mention even the Pope's rebuke of the regime which the family has also not acknowledged to this day. 

READ: CA junks Marcos victims’ claim for $2-B damages

Essential context 

In response to a question about lowering the age of criminal responsibility, Gadon took the opportunity to talk about Marcos and Martial Law. 

"This Catholic Church, many of the priests, instead of teaching lessons to children, what they focus on is anti-Marcos, anti-Martial Law, and communism is what they teach. So we should push back against the Catholic Church. You've done nothing but destroy Marcos. What you should be teaching is good lessons, not politics," he said in Filipino. 

In response, labor leader and fellow senatorial aspirant Luke Espiritu said: "I also agree that we should be imparting good values to our children. Schools should teach that extrajudicial killings are bad, red-tagging is bad, Marcos was bad, and he had many human rights violations."

"We should be teaching the children to respect life and human rights, to respect the life of all, and that the government should not be killing its people," he added in Filipino. 

Gadon tried to interrupt Espiritu several times, with the latter repeatedly reminding him: “It’s still my time...don't be rude.”

Addressing the former presidential spokesperson, Espiritu added: "Mr. Roque, I know your history. You were anti-Marcos. You spent your whole life as an anti-Marcos and working for human rights. And now you were given a senate spot under the party of Marcos, you suddenly sing hallelujah?"

A visibly irked Gadon said, "We shouldn't be using this forum for propaganda against the Marcoses!" as he attempted to hijack Espiritu's interpellation and use the forum for propaganda favorable to the Marcoses. 

According to Amnesty International, from 1972 to 1981, about 72,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed. Espiritu cited the same numbers, to which Gadon changed the topic and talked about killings perpetrated by the communist party. 

FROM INTERAKSYON: Labor lawyer Luke Espiritu stands ground vs Larry Gadon, Harry Roque during SMNI debate

Why did we fact-check this?

Pro-administration Facebook pages supporting the presidential bid of Marcos Jr. — many of which have been found to be behind fake news proliferating on social media — ripped and reposted the exchange. 

One page called TapWan, which calls itself a "defender and supporter" of Marcos, claimed that it was Espiritu was who lost his temper and was eventually "burned." That repost has since garnered close to 720,000 views. 

According to CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring tool, 622 posts mentioning the names of all three lawyers have been published over the past seven days, amassing nearly 580,000 interactions collectively. 

— Franco Luna with reports from Xave Gregorio and The STAR 

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here.

Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected]

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