Human rights victims to file motion vs appeals court decision rejecting $2 billion award

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — Human rights victims under the rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos on Tuesday said they will file for a reconsideration of a court's decision to turn down their request to be awarded $2 billion (P100 billion) in reparations.

The Court of Appeals' 12th division upheld the June 25, 2013 ruling of the Makati Regional Trial Court, which determined that the 1995 ruling of a U.S. Hawaii District Court awarding nearly $2 billion in damages to 10,000 victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos' regime cannot be enforced in the Philippines.

The CA, in its 19-page decision promulgated on July 7 and obtained July 17, said that the Hawaii District Court's "final judgment" was flawed and did not meet the Philippines' criteria of a valid judgment.

"To stress, said court was without jurisdiction because first, the complaint therein was erroneously filed as a class suit and second, therein claimants remained unidentified," the CA decision read, referring to the Hawaii District Court's decision.

Former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales, one of thousands of victims under Marcos' rule claiming compensation, said they would file a motion of reconsideration following the appeals' court ruling.

"We will be filing the motion for reconsideration within the month, between July 24 to 26," Rosales told CNN Philippines.

Rosales said that they would "lobby hard" for the reconsideration, and will not hesitate to file another motion with the Supreme Court if the CA does not decide in their favor.

The CA said its decision arose from a case Rosales and four other human rights victims filed on May 20, 1997 with the Makati Regional Trial Court in a bid to get the $2-billion in reparations awarded to them, since they claimed to be among the 10,000 in whose favor the Hawaii court's final judgment decided.

The Hawaii District Court's February 3, 1995 decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals' Ninth Circuit on December 17, 1996.

However the Makati Regional Trial Court dismissed the case on June 25, 2013, saying the "Hawaii District Court had no jurisdiction over the claim."

"Thus the final judgment rendered therein is null and void in view of the claimants non-compliance with therein provision requiring a claimant to first exhaust adequate and available remedies" in the Philippines, where the abuses occured, the Court of Appeals said, citing the regional trial court decision.

Despite the decades of legal wrangling over the Marcos' family's ill-gotten wealth, there are efforts to compensate victims of the regime which included nine years of martial law nationwide from 1972 to 1981.

In March 2017, the government released an initial list of 4,000 martial law victims eligible to receive compensation. This comes from P10 billion pesos from $683 million dollars (₱33 billion) transferred to the Philippine treasury by the Swiss Federal Court in 2004, after the Supreme Court here ordered the forfeiture of the family's Swiss deposits in a ruling on July 2003.

The Marcos family is alleged to have plundered up to $10-billion dollars from the nation during their 21-year rule.

READ: Martial law victims receive first half of monetary compensation

CNN Philippines' Yvette Morales, Eimor Santos, and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.