US court award of $2B to rights victims cannot be enforced in the Philippines

Sunday July 16, 2017 ()
Loreta Ann Rosales
([L-R] Lamangan, Rosales, and Mijares)

The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the claim of a group of human rights victims on the estate of former President Ferdinand Marcos, saying that the decision of a United States district court awarding almost $2 billion to victims of human rights abuses under Martial Law cannot be enforced in the Philippines.

In a 19-page decision, Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro of the CA's 12th Division affirmed the decision of the Makati City Regional Trial Court dismissing the case filed by a group led by retired Judge Priscilla Mijares, Former Human Rights Commission Chairman Loreta Ann Rosales, movie director Joel Lamangan, Hilda Narciso and Mariano Dimaranan.

Mijares and her group filed the class suit in 1997 against the Marcos estate, representing claimants under MDL 840 and the 10,000 human rights victims. MDL 840 was the docket number of the claims suit filed at the United States District Court.

However, Judge Bonifacio Pascua of the Makati RTC Branch 56 threw out the case, saying the Hawaii court's ruling cannot be applied in the Philippines.

The appellate court upheld the ruling, saying it found no reversible error in the lower's court's decision.

"Rules of Comity should not be made to prevail over our Constitution and we cannot allow foreign impositions to trample upon our sovereignty," Pizarro said. Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Jhosep Lopez concurred with the decision.

The CA said the petitioners erred in filing a class suit because the other claimants were not identified.

It stressed that the torture, summary execution and disappearance of the victims cannot be joined into a class suit since "no two persons can suffer the same nature and degree of injury or damage". The court said:

"All told, the Final Judgment of the Hawaii Court, being null and void for want of jurisdiction, may not be enforced."

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Court upheld the Hawaii court's verdict, saying Marcos was accountable for the torture, murder and disappearance of countless human rights victims.

But the Court of Appeals maintained that those who filed the class suit in the US on May 9, 1991 had no legal standing to by represent the thousands of human rights victims.

The suit was filed by Celsa Hilao, Josefina Hilao Forcadilla, Arturo Revilla Jr., Rodolfo Benosa, Danilo Fuente, Renato Pineda, Domiciano Amparo, Christopher Sorio, Jose Duran and Adora Faye De Vera. The appellate court said:

"The lack of common question of law and fact between the claimants in MDL 840 rendered such class suit improper as it violated the basic requisite for a class suit–that parties who bring the suit both for themselves and those they seek to represent must share a common legal interest,"

"In alleging that they filed the suit also on behalf of approximately 10,000 members, the 10 Filipino citizens were, therefore, claiming that they were acting in a representative capacity; yet, they did not have any power of attorney from the other claimants."

The CA said the Hawaii Court did not give opportunity for the Marcos Estate to confront each and every claimant. "Evidently, the right to due process of both parties was violated."

Sources:

  • CA junks claims on Marcos estate, July 17, 2017, Jomar Canlas, The Manila Times News

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