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US court approves new distribution of $10M to Martial Law victims

A US judge has approved the distribution of $10 million to thousands of victims of human rights abuses during the Martial Law era. 

US District Court Judge Manuel Real, who has presided over the Marcos litigation since 1990, signed an order on March 28 that will give $9,750,000 or $1,500 each to some 6,500 members of a class lawsuit against the deposed dictator's estate.

The distribution of funds will start in six Mindanao cities in May, then continue in another nine cities in June and July, according to a press release from the victims' lead counsel Robert Swift and colleague Rodrigo Domingo.

“Filipinos residing in the United States or other countries will receive checks through the mail. Class members in the Philippines will receive letters about four weeks before a distribution advising them of where and when they may come to receive checks,” the lawyers said.

Real signed the order giving final approval to a settlement after the sale of a painting formerly in the collection of Imelda Marcos.

The painting, a Monet, was sold for $32 million by Imelda's former secretary Vilma Bautista, who was "indicted, convicted and is currently confined in prison in New York for offenses related to the sale," the statement read.

After two settlement conferences with the federal court judge, the parties reached a settlement in which the Martial Law victims will receive $13.75 million cash.

The counsel requested several amounts for the fees related to the settlement and the distribution of funds to members of the class lawsuit such as counsel fee, incentive award, collective costs and expenses of counsel, and cost of distribution.

“That will leave $10,712,157 for compensation to Class members and the cost of distribution. If the Court directs distribution of $1,500 to each of 6,500 eligible Class members, $762,157 will remain in the Fund,” Swift said in a memorandum. 

Domingo said that most of the Class members are poor and in need of the distribution money for food and medications.

“Many of the victims of the human rights abuses are dead, so the money will provide needed assistance to their families,” Domingo added.

In 1995, a jury in Hawaii awarded the Class almost $2 billion.

The Class members received compensation in 2011 and 2014 from collections on the judgments of Marcos property found in the United States.

Other monetary reparations awarded to Class members are still in the process of being fully distributed. — Joviland Rita/BM, GMA News