Human Rights Groups Hail Decision as Warning to Dictators
MANILA, Philippines(AP)-Opponents of Ferdinand Marcos said last month that a U.S.
court decision finding the late president's estate liable for torture committed under
his rule serves as a warning to dictators to respect human rights.
On Sept. 24, a U.S. district court jury in Honolulu decided that the late Philippine
president's estate should compensate thousands of victims of torture and other atrocities
committed before Marcos was ousted in 1986.
A separate trial will be held to determine how much the plaintiffs-up to 10,000 Filipinos-will
receive. The class-action suit marks the first time any court has found that Marcos
systematically tortured his citizens.
"I hope that this decision will deliver a strong message not only to dictators
but even to other heads of state," said Romeo Capulong, one of the human rights
lawyers who worked on the case.
Capulong called the verdict a victory "not only for the victims of human rights
violations" but for "the entire movement against the Marcos dictatorship."
There was no support from Marcos' widow, Imelda. About 20 Marcos supporters, mostly
elderly women, staged a small protest in front of the U.S. Embassy. Mrs. Marcos'
Philippine lawyer, Antonio Coronel, said the defense would appeal.
Sen. Agapito Aquino, whose brother, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, was murdered
by soldiers in 1983, said he hoped "the verdict serves as a warning to all would-be
dictators that truth and justice shall always be."
Aquino said his only regret was that the decision came in an American court rather
than one in the Philippines. Aquino's sister-in-law, former president Corazon Aquino,
never brought criminal charges against Marcos for fear he would return from Hawaii
to face his accusers.
Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989, more than three years after he was ousted in the uprising
that installed Mrs. Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino.
President Fidel Ramos also withheld comment. Ramos, who was elected last May with
Mrs.Aquino's backing, served as national police chief when the atrocities occurred.