Marcos Human Rights Class Suit
June 28, 2012
Robert Swift and Rod Domingo, JR.
On Tuesday the New York Court of Appeals ruled that its courts would not adjudicate a lawsuit by Filipino victims of human rights violations seeking $42 million of Marcos assets which have been in New York for 40 years. The Republic of the Philippines (ROP) had opposed the victims by asserting it was an indispensable party but invoked its sovereign immunity to prevent any adjudication. The victims have recovered little on their $2 billion judgment against the Estate of Marcos chiefly because of opposition from the Republic.
In 2009 the victims had levied on a Marcos account created at Merrill Lynch in 1972 in New York where the original deposit of $2 million deposit grew to its current $42 million. The Republic was not a party but used Philippine National Bank (PNB) to intervene and argue for it that the case could not proceed because the Philippine government was indispensable and invoked sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the objection but the Court of Appeals disagreed.
The New York Court’s Opinion – which was a dismissal without prejudice of the lawsuit — leaves the victims and the Philippine government in a stalemate. The victims cannot proceed even though they have established their priority to the Marcos funds under New York law. And the Republic cannot recover the Marcos funds without litigating in New York. If the Republic litigates in New York, its claim is likely barred by the statute of limitations. If the Republic does nothing, the New York Court voiced that it would allow a lawsuit by the victims to proceed.
“This administration shares with the Arroyo administration a vindictiveness to the victims of Marcos’ cruelty” said lead counsel Robert Swift. “It has never compensated the victims and spends millions of dollars on lawyers to prevent the victims from receiving compensation. Many of these victims are now old and in poor health. One is left to wonder whether this administration has a moral compass.”
Lawyer Rod Domingo, Jr., co-counsel of Robert Swift, commented: “It is frustrating that while the government cannot legally get hold of the Marcos assets, despite its vast resources and millions of dollars paid to foreign lawyers, it has only successfully blocked the recovery of the $42 Million stashed in Merrill Lynch New York. The present government, as the past ones, had argued against the interest of the victims asserting the gobbledygook doctrine of sovereign immunity. But all is not lost. The dismissal is without prejudice. The Arelma case is not over, meaning to say, it can be re-filed at the opportune time. Other legal remedies are available. There is the pending litigation in the Singapore court involving at least $25 Million which may soon be decided. The other expected recovery against the Marcos estate is the enforcement in the Philippines of the foreign judgment of Judge Manuel Real pending before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, where the class plaintiffs had already rested. The continuation of trial is set on August 1 and 20.
For further information and clarification, please call:
ROD C. DOMINGO, JR.
15/F LPL Center 130 L.P. Leviste Street
Salcedo Village Makati City 1227
Tel. Nos. (632) 813-3459
Cellphone Nos. (0917) 813-1800
Fax No. (632) 812-7997