Sunday, February 13, 2005

Imelda's exultation

Imelda's exultation

Posted 00:58am (Mla time) Feb 13, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the February 13, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I WAS outraged to read in this paper's issue of Feb. 7 about how Imelda Marcos "exulted" over the holding of the US district court of appeals that it had no jurisdiction over the decision of our Supreme Court recognizing the $684 million transferred by the Swiss government to an escrow account with the PNB as forfeited to the Philippine Republic for failure of the Marcos family to prove its lawful acquisition.

Imelda was elated over the failure of the 9,500 human rights victims whose claims for damages against the villains of the martial law regime headed by Ferdinand Marcos were dismissed by the American court. Against the factual findings in the Honolulu district court that originally heard their complaint, and the massive evidence of their maltreatment in this country, the other half of the conjugal dictatorship again protested their immaculate innocence and expressed satisfaction over the claimants' frustration.

Saying that she was "almost speechless" when she read of the appeals court decision over the radio, she was nevertheless able to say that "we did not even pinch (kinurot) a human rights claimant." "Pinch" is right as an understatement; there is an over-abundance of the tortures and murders and other heinous crimes committed during that blighted period that only Imelda and her ilk will refuse to remember. (Even Chief Justice Pedro L. Yap and Justice Abraham F. Sarmiento of the reorganized Supreme Court had sons who simply disappeared never to be seen again.)

A sincere showing of remorse and an honest effort to repair the wrong done is the decent way for reparation and forgiveness, but some people never pray the Act of Contrition. Some tyrants would rather commit suicide without confession as Hitler did or be executed by the people they have oppressed like Mussolini and Romania's Ceausescu. Imelda has no similar sentiments of penitence or apology because she believes she has nothing to regret. This is obvious from the way she has been behaving notwithstanding the unlamented death of her husband and the downfall of their disgraceful reign.

There is a Supreme Court decision holding her and her family liable for a tax deficiency of more than P23.5 billion that has yet to be fully enforced. The BIR reportedly cannot find enough property belonging to the Marcoses to satisfy the judgment. The extravagant Imelda, who acquired 3,000 pairs of shoes during her heyday with she says her own private funds, cannot afford to pay her just debts now. The merry widow can continue to attend glittering affairs with her affluent friends, but she herself, with her scintillating jewelry and lavish gowns, is a pauper.

President Macapagal-Arroyo has reserved part of the forfeited fund for the payment of the human rights claimants and Congress is preparing to enact a special appropriation for the purpose. The amount shall be taken from the fund originally intended for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. The size of the fund has yet to be determined, but the more important question, in my opinion is, Who should pay the human rights claimants?

Their suit, as I understand it, was filed against Ferdinand Marcos and not the Republic of the Philippines. He was sued in his private capacity and could not be held liable in his official capacity as he had acted without lawful authority. He was a usurper, an intruder. His liability to the claimants was personal and could not be transferred to the legitimate government of the Republic of the Philippines. As the successor to the failed de facto government, the Republic cannot be responsible for the purely political and unlawful acts of its lawless predecessor.

The theory, I suppose, is that the forfeited fund was stolen by Marcos and so should be used to compensate the victims he had oppressed. This means that it will be the Republic which is assuming the liability that should be satisfied by the Marcos heirs. In effect, it is we the people who are being called upon to pay damages to the claimants Marcos and his gang have injured although we had no hand in their abuses. We are the innocent people who contributed and are expected to pay billions of pesos in damages for the iniquities of the past regime.

The other alternative appears as ineffectual as the enforcement of the Marcos P23.5 billion tax deficiency; this has substantially failed so far because of the inability of the government to locate garnishable properties of the debtors who are pleading penury. The Arroyo administration and Congress have probably accepted that feeble excuse and have agreed to pick up the tab in behalf of the human rights claimants who have nowhere else to go for the alleviation of their plight.

There are other questions to be resolved, among them the proof of the individual claimants' particular injury and its monetary value, the agency that should examine such claims, the apportionment of the fund to be appropriated among the more than 9,500 victims recognized by the Honolulu court, and-not the least significant-the existence of other properties illegally acquired by the Marcoses that can be held to answer for their sins. The search for this immense and unlawful wealth should continue unabated as one of the major but so far thwarted mandates of Edsa 1.


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