Why all HR cases against the Marcoses were filed in US courts?

Sunday September 30, 2018 ()

For all the Yellows' shrieks alleging widespread human rights violations (HRVs) during Martial Law, they have never filed a single case for such crimes at the Commission on Human Rights it set up in 1987 nor in any Philippine court.

Even as the Yellow regime held uninterrupted power for 12 years (Cory and then her anointed Fidel Ramos), it never got around to filing a single case against, much less convict, a Marcos, a police or military, soldier or policeman for HRVs, the biggest "sin" the martial law regime has been accused of.

And to think that during that time, the Yellow presidents totally controlled the judiciary: Cory and Ramos in their 12 years in power appointed 33 of the country's Supreme Court justices, as many as Marcos did in his 17 years as president and then strongman.

Ramos and Aquino

In fact, by 1987, Aquino had appointed all of the 15 Supreme Court justices, except two who had been appointed by Marcos (Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera and Hugo Gutierrez, both of whom left the court in 1993).

This meant the entire judiciary's support for Cory if she ever filed HRV cases against Marcos and his police and military officials.

But she didn't. Then CHR chairman Aurora Navarrete-Recina in March 1997, upon the request of then Rep. Imelda Marcos, issued a certification that there were no formal complaints with the CHR against the former President and members of his family. I haven't found any report that such cases were filed after 1997.

I also haven't found any cases alleging HRVs by the Marcos regime filed in local courts.

Reasons why

Why were there no such cases filed?

I could think of four reasons:

  • The Corazon Aquino regime was so inept and lazy that it didn't bother to file HRV cases against the Marcoses and its police and military officials. In contrast, the Aquino regime was intense in its attempts to prove that a host of corporations were owned by Marcos or his associates, and therefore must be confiscated. Was this because money could be made out of these investigations, and not from prosecuting some police or military official?
  • The Yellow regime was so afraid that if the police and the military officials during martial law were prosecuted for HRVs, they would have joined the RAM-led coup attempts, or even undertake their own rebellion;
  • A prosecution of HR violations during martial law would have unarguably led to the prosecution of Fidel Ramos, the EDSA I hero and Cory's General, since for the entire period of Martial Law, he was in control of the Philippine Constabulary that played the biggest role in alleged HRVs. Cory — and her American backers — of course would have none of that; and lastly,
  • Such a project would have unearthed the truth that while there were incontrovertibly HR abuses, it wasn't state policy of the Marcos regime. These were committed only by the rogue members of the military and the police, which emerge in any armed force in any country in all conflict situations. It would also most likely conclude that most of the allegations of massive HRVs were part of the Communist Party's propaganda line to generate support from an inherently anti-communist Catholic nation, and that the victims were casualties in the war called for and waged both by communist and Moro insurgents. The State had the duty to defend itself or it loses its very legitimacy."

All we've had are emotional narratives by the communist propaganda machine, made more melodramatic by third-rate poets, prose writers, anthologists and even movie makers — who never ever mention that in many cases the alleged HRV victims were NPA guerrillas.

All in the US

All of the human rights suits against the Marcoses were filed in US courts, as civil suits asking for monetary damages. These are cases which require less than the criminal-case standard of beyond-all-reasonable doubt.

Why there? Because litigious US society has generated a trove of lawyers who have expertise in making millions of dollars out of filing civil suits, charging no fees up front but making a killing in revenues collected in a decision by judges so eager to convict foreign dictators.

A bit ironically, it was a letter to the editor published Saturday that led me to research and discover this only-in-the-Philippines fact of not a single case filed against the Marcoses for HRVs.

In this letter, one Atty. Ruben Fruto, claimed that contrary to what I wrote last Friday, there is one "court decision attesting to what happened during Martial Law" and this is in a Supreme Court decision issued in April 2005 (G.R. 13925). (Fruto was part of a legal team that pressed, unsuccessfully, in 1997 a local court to enforce a US civil suit against the Marcoses.)

He quoted the paragraph which he claimed was the Court's conclusion that there were widespread HRVs during martial law. To quote its most melodramatic sentence: "The cries of justice for the tortured, the murdered, and the desaparecidos arouse outrage and sympathy in the hearts of the fair-minded, yet the dispensation of the appropriate relief due them cannot be extended through the same caprice or whim that characterized the ill-wind of martial rule."

Either Fruto doesn't understand Supreme Court decisions or he is a good leftist propagandist, or ignorantly thinks that texts of Supreme Court decisions can't be accessed with a few clicks an internet-linked computer.

Anyone reading the decision and that paragraph, which is its first paragraph, would without an iota of doubt conclude that it was merely, as a legal dictionary put it, "a judge's expression of opinion in a written judgment, but not essential to the decision and therefore not legally binding as a precedent." It is in law called obiter dictum, Latin for "things said by the way."

In fact, what makes that conclusion incontrovertible is that in that decision, the Supreme Court refused to enforce a class-suit decision made in 1995 by the US District Court in Hawaii awarding $2 billion in damages to alleged HR victims during Martial Law.

This is because under our own laws, such judgments of a foreign court have to be recognized and enforced in the Philippines through a case filed with Philippine courts. The Supreme Court ordered the case to be heard by the lower courts, which process became so convoluted that this approach to extract money from the Marcoses and give these to purported HRV victims dragged on for three decades and fizzled out.

The Communist Party through its fronts abandoned the judicial arena and instead lobbied for a law that ordered compensation to purported human rights victims during martial law. President Aquino III pushed for the passage of the measure which was passed in February 2013 as Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparations Law.

The communists managed to design the law that it gave as much as P1.7 million each to its activists, party cadres, NPA guerrillas — and even top officials, such as Jose Ma. Sison and his wife — who were imprisoned or killed in battle, or their heirs.

Perhaps the communist and Aquino's law is good, as it distributed or will distribute over P10 billion in money mostly to poor and lower middle-class Filipinos, whom the party had recruited for its failed revolution, many of whom still live in poverty.

But isn't that such an irony of our history?

The Communist Party that waged a bloody war against a Republic in order to topple it and set up its dictatorship got that State to give P10 billion to its founder, its activists, and its guerrillas. And the Party even got to demonize its arch-enemy, Marcos.

Sources:

  • No court or CHR case filed re human rights violations vs Marcoses in PH, Rigoberto D. Tiglao, October 1, 2018, The Manila Times


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