The Fight for Ferdinand Marcos's Cash

A torturous battle in the New York courts for the torture victims of the Philippines

"If the Republic fails to seek enforcement of its judgment or some other avenue of recourse, the time may come when the [class of victims] could again ask a New York court to reconsider the enforcement of its judgment," the decision stated.

The Philippines would not attempt to make a U.S. legal claim over the next year. To Swift, the time had come. In June, he filed a new petition, arguing that the Philippines was doing nothing more than blocking his clients. Besides, the victims had laid claim to the Arelma account years before the government had.

Now the court must decide whether the Philippines has waited too long to seek the money.

Wikimedia Commons

"If a government can succeed in that claim, that all of a former dictator's assets belong to a government, human rights victims would never be able to get compensation," says Swift.

President Benigno Aquino III's office did not respond to interview requests. Araceli Manaloto, manager of the Philippine National Bank in New York, says she is "not familiar with the case." But the government has made its perspective clear over the years: "These assets were improperly obtained by Marcos through gross misuse of public office and in grave betrayal of the public trust and therefore forfeited from the moment of misappropriation," PCGG chairman Andres Bautista said in 2009. In February, the Philippine Congress passed a bill that allocated $246 million to compensate victims of Marcos's human rights violations—a little more than 10 percent of the Hawaii judgment.

The Arelma dispute is fueled by basic math: Marcos's estate has not provided enough assets to cover the scope of the regime's wrongdoing. Over nearly three decades, the PCGG has recouped $4 billion, less than half of what the administration stole. In the 18 years since the Hawaii decision, the 10,000 plaintiffs have collectively taken home just $22 million, around 1 percent of the judgment.

Meanwhile, as the legal battle in New York between Filipino taxpayers and human rights victims rages on, the head of the Marcos estate has sought to resurrect the family's power.

In 2010, Marcos's widow, Imelda, was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives. Public records showed that she had a net worth of $22 million, making her the second-richest member of Congress, behind boxer Manny Pacquiao.

« Previous Page
New York Concert Tickets