Over 10,000 human rights victims during the regime of president Ferdinand Marcos have lost a bid to collect nearly $2 billion in damages from the dictator’s family.
The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition of the victims including former Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales seeking enforcement of the Feb. 3, 1995 decision of a US federal court, which awarded $1.964 billion to the victims of martial law atrocities.
The 12th Division of the CA held that the decision by the Hawaii district court was not binding as it did not have jurisdiction over the class suit docketed as Class Action No. MDL 840 that included unnamed claimants.
It cited violation of the right to due process of all the unnamed claimants as well as the respondent Marcos estate.
“To our minds, the failure of the final judgment to meet the standards of what a valid judgment is in our country compels us to deny its enforcement,” read the 19-page ruling penned by CA Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro.
“Rules of comity should not be made to prevail over our Constitution and we cannot allow foreign impositions to trample upon our sovereignty,” the ruling stressed.
The CA further held that because of the classification of the claimants into three categories – torture, summary execution and disappearance victims – the case cannot be considered a class suit.
The court explained that a class suit should mean that the parties who file the case both for themselves and those they seek to represent share a common legal interest – “that is, the subject of the suit over which there exists a cause of action is common to all persons who belong to the group.”
Such classification of the claimants, according to the CA, is an obvious recognition that “no common question of law and fact exists between/among the claimants.”
“In other words, each claimant in MDL 840 had a right, if any, only to the damage that such individual may have suffered, and not one of them had any right to or can claim any interest in the damage or injury which another suffered. Hence, MDL 840 was not and should not have been brought as a class suit,” the court stressed.
The CA also held that the Hawaii court failed to ensure that the 10 Filipino citizens who initiated MDL 840 – Celsa Hilao, Josefina Hilao Forcadilla, Arturo Revilla Jr., Rodolfo Benosa, Danila Fuente, Renato Pineda, Adora Faye de Vera, Domiciano Amparo, Christopher Sorio and Jose Duran – were truly and legally authorized by the other purported claimants.
It cited the failure of the 10 to identify the other claimants they purportedly represent and to present any power of attorney from any of them.
“In the absence, therefore, of such authority, the final judgment rendered by said court is not binding because the right to due process of all the unnamed claimants, as well as the herein respondent estate, had been violated,” the CA added.
With this ruling, the CA instead affirmed the earlier decision of the Makati regional trial court dismissing the complaint for recognition and enforcement filed by Rosales’ group.
Rosales was joined by Priscilla Mijares, Hilda Narciso, Sr. Mariani Dimaranan and Joel Lamangan in filing the petition.
ML victims to seek SC relief
Rosales said the group of victims of martial law crimes will appeal the CA’s decision and elevate the matter to the Supreme Court.
“It is unfortunate that the CA dismissed altogether the judgment that is recognized internationally,” Rosales told The STAR in a phone interview yesterday.
“We, members of the United Nations, usually recognize and respect the jurisprudence of each other,” she added, noting that the ruling was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
She also stressed that the SC has previously recognized the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship and that enforcing the Hawaii court’s decision would be a step forward in the reparation of those who suffered during the regime.