This blog entry is an evolving account of my small involvement in one of the great human rights lawsuits of the past 50 years. I am assisting my friend and fellow Haverford Monthly Meeting member Robert Swift in the distribution of 6500 checks for 50,000 Philippine pesos (about $1200) each to some of the over 10,000 victims of martial law in the Philippines during the last 14 years of the reign of Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.
For 28 years Bob has been pursuing this class action case -- the largest since Nuremberg -- with the help of hundreds of Filipino human rights workers, many themselves victims of the horror that was Proclamation 1081.
Although the verdict against the Marcos fortune in the case decided by a Honolulu jury in the mid-90s was for over $2 billion, constant impediment by lawyers acting for the Marcos family, and by the Philippine government, have prevented direct access to their fortunes at home. Indeed, the family has continued to wield political power: Imelda is a member of the Philippine Congress, their son Bongbong is a senator and has plans to run for president in 2016, and daughter Imee is governor of Ilocos Norte province. "Atty. Swift" – as he is known to claimants and the press here – and the many Filippinos assisting his efforts have worked for decades to bring some justice in the form of financial compensation to surviving victims and their heirs.
The current, second, distribution (the first was in 2011) is the result of $10 million recovered by Bob Swift from the purchaser of one small portion of the Imelda Marcos fortune: a famous Monet painting entitled "Le Bassin aux Nymphéas."
The distributions occur in 16 Philippines cities (for details, click here, and will continue until March 21, 2014. Each claimant is photographed for the record, and the faces testify...
I have been recording some of my reactions to the various settings -- and to the victims -- in short clips available at my podcast site, and I plan to describe the results here.
As noted, claimants are photographed holding the check they have just received, as a record of the actual delivery of benefits. Thanks to the artistry and devotion of Tony Oquias, the professional photographer who has worked with both the 2011 and the 2014 distributions, these pictures are much more; they are visual testimony to the suffering and portraits of the fortitude of the 1081 victims and their descendants. For a slide show of some of Tony's claimant pictures, click here.
I'm also uploading some of my own photos to a Flickr set titled Philippines Human Rights 2014. That photoset is linked here. Photos are presently in the order taken, and I'm adding labels and comments as time permits.
The Philippines Commision on Human Rights, a government agency staffed by some of the impassioned 1081 claimants with whom we are working, maintains the powerful website Martial Law Files: A History of Resistance, including the dates and location of the 2014 check distributions, and there is a Claimants 1081 Facebook page.
Philippines News Coverage
- Raissa Robles. Stopping the Marcoses from erasing their crimes from history. February 9, 2014 (highly recommended)
- Compensation for Marcos dictatorship's HR victims distributed
- Martial Law victims in N. Mindanoro receive compensation
- Blood money: Martial Law victims get P50,000
- PH mailing system 'sucks', says US lawyer
- Partial compensation from the Marcos loot