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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 2:24 p.m., Thursday, May 4, 2006

Appeals court approves $35 million to Marcos victims

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of Filipinos seeking compensation from the regime of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos won their first financial battle today in their 10-year quest to recover a $2 billion jury verdict to settle human rights abuses.

The 9,500 Filipinos, most of them living in the Philippines, can share among them $35 million in a New York brokerage account Marcos opened in 1972 with a $2 million deposit, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The Philippine government claimed the money belonged to its treasury, but the appeals court said it had no legal right to that deposit.

"This award will have monetary meaning in the Phillippines," said Honolulu attorney Sherry Broder, one of the lawyers representing the victims. "It’s one of the most wonderful appellate decisions ever written."

The plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against the Marcos estate in 1986, the year he was deposed as president after ruling for 20 years. Marcos and his family fled to Hawai'i, where he died in exile in 1989.

In 1995, using a two-century-old U.S. law, a Honolulu jury awarded the group $2 billion after finding Marcos responsible for summary executions, disappearances and torture.

So far, none of the award has been distributed, as it has been tied up by foreign banks and the Philippine government claiming ownership. The original award is nearing $4 billion with interest.

Last year, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, which covers Hawai'i and eight other western states, ruled that the 9,500 plaintiffs have no right to recover $683 million in Marcos assets that were transferred from a Swiss account to the Philippine government, which claimed ownership of the money.

The plaintiffs also are pursuing other avenues to collect the judgment.

They are trying to seize $22 million in Marcos assets located in a bank in Singapore, and other properties in various countries.

The case is Merrill Lynch v. ENC Corp., 04-16401.