Thursday, July 06, 2006

Give them the money

Give them the money


‘But the money already recovered should first be used to compensate the victims.’
It’s been a little more than two years since the government took hold of the P36 billion in deposits President Marcos was supposed to have stashed in Swiss banks during the 20 years he was in power. The money is now completely gone, courtesy of this cheating, lying and thieving administration, save for P10 billion reserved for the compensation of victims of martial law abuses.

Congress is taking its own sweet time in passing a law authorizing the payments. In the meantime, the victims are growing old, most of them suffering ailments contracted during their incarceration.

More unfortunate yet is the government’s continuing efforts to block payments from a separate $36 million in recovered Marcos wealth in the United States. Judge Manuel Real, who has awarded the victims $2 billion in compensation, a few days ago ordered partial payment of $2,000 each to 7,500 victims. Payments could not be made, however, because of the actions taken by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Last month the US court of appeals in San Francisco awarded the $35 million to the victims. The PCGG, however, succeeded in getting a stay of execution from the appellate court.

"It isn’t just sad. It’s a tragedy that the government wants to prevent the poorest of its citizens from recovering for brutal human rights violations," Robert Swift, the lead American lawyer for the victims, said. "The victims keep winning in US courts, the government keeps losing, but it still cannot distribute compensation."
It’s the height of irony.

It is the government, a direct beneficiary of the resistance put up by the victims to the dictatorship, against which the beneficiaries of Real’s ruling are now pitted. Where was Gloria Arroyo in those darkest years? She claimed she had been in the front ranks of the resistance by working to convince foreign governments to withdraw support from Marcos. We are not about to denigrate her contributions. The ouster of Marcos in 1986 was the product of a slow accretion of actions, big or small, against the dictatorship.

But there are now people in government whose shadows we never saw during those years when opposing Marcos was dangerous to health and life. They are even dancing with Imelda for the purported purpose of recovering more wealth to purportedly help the people.

It’s a fraud, but let’s humor them. They can recover more from the Marcoses, well and good.

They can pocket all the money for all we care. But the money already recovered should first be used to compensate the victims.

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