- Realizing A World Without Desaparecidos


- The Making of Nepal’s Anti-disappearance Law

- Disappearances & Fake Encounters


- Claimants 1081

- Tracing Patterns of Disappearances in Latin America

- For the Want of Peace & Justice

- Probing Deeper into Munir’s Death

- Out of the Shadows

- Reclaiming Stolen Lives



- Growing Federation

- At the Heart of Buenos Aires


- Submissions to the Independent Group of Eminent Persons


- Exhuming Truth

- Joint Statement of Independent Observers for the GRP - NDF Peace Process


- Of The Vanished

News Feature


In the mid-1950s, the Philippines witnessed the formation and the upsurge of militant actions among student organizations as they called for a radical restructuring of Philippine society vis-à-vis the advocacy for nationalism.  These student and youth organizations rocked key cities and major towns in the country with massive demonstrations.  At the forefront were the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). The students identified three basic problems plaguing the nation: US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.  As the means to eradicate and solve these issues, armed struggle was called for.

Amidst this political and social turmoil, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was born on December 26, 1968 in Central Luzon.  On March 29, 1969, the CPP organized its armed group called the New People’s Army (NPA) in Capas, Tarlac.  Guided by the Maoist tenets of encircling the cities from the countryside through armed and violent means, the CPP and the NPA immediately organized the farmers in the rural areas and launched series of ambushes and attacks on the Philippine Army and its military units.  In such a short period, the communist group generated support from farmers and indigenous communities; hence, it managed to strengthen its armed struggle. 

Consequently by 1970, the country plunged into a deep state of political instability.  For the first three months of the year, the communist movement had already taken roots in the rural areas and insurgencies became widespread.  Back in the city streets, students continued to wage their protests against the government even up to the point of staging demonstrations in front of the Malacañang Palace.  The military violently dispersed the groups hurting a number of protesters and killing one student.  This period came to be known as the First Quarter Storm. 

The late former President Ferdinand Marcos’s second term was about to finish during this time.  He wanted to stay in power but the Philippine Constitution prohibits a re-elected president to run for a third term.  Thus, under the pretext of ridding the country of communist insurgents and bringing back peace in the land, he issued Proclamation 1081 on September 21, 1972, placing the whole nation under Martial Law.  

Following this declaration, the Philippine Congress was shut down. The political enemies such as prominent legislators Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Diokno, and Benigno Aquino were arrested and imprisoned. Basic freedoms were curtailed.  The military took over newspapers, radios, and television stations.   Political rights were suspended. Curfew was imposed and movements were restricted. The military became very powerful. They could just raid any house, take over any establishment and arrest anybody and put them in prison without due process.  Identified leaders or suspected activists were arrested even without proper verification.   

Marcos ruled the country with an iron hand using the military as instrument to carry out his bloody decisions.   Thus, the martial period in the Philippines saw the flagrant violations of human rights.  Many victims were tortured, others were extra-judicially executed while thousands remain missing and disappeared to this day.


People Power and the Class Suit


After 14 years under Martial Rule, on February 25, 1986, the Filipino people finally found the courage to oust Marcos.  Gathering at EDSA, they held a prayerful demonstration.  This peaceful call for change became known as the People Power Revolution. 

The post-Marcos period saw a transition back to democracy.   Human rights victims primarily demanded truth and justice.  From these demands emerged the Marcos human rights litigation - a class action law on behalf of 9,539 Filipinos who were tortured, summarily executed and disappeared during the Marcos dictatorship. 

This case was filed before the United States court in 1986, pursuant to the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) of 1789.  Considering Marcos had fled to Hawaii, the US Court had jurisdiction over his case.   

More, the filing of the case was done in consonance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which both the US and the Philippines were signatories. 

Under the existing Philippine Supreme Court jurisprudence, “a foreign judgment is presumed to be valid and binding in the country which it comes, until the contrary is shown.”  

The Court of Hawaii, under Judge Manuel Real, tried the class suit from 1986 to 1992.  On September 24, 1992, the US Court in Hawaii found Marcos guilty of gross human rights violations and ruled that Marcos pay for damages suffered by the victims of human rights violations.  The exemplary damages amounted to $1.2B. 

From September to November 1994, Judge Real sent a group of Special Masters to the Philippines to take the deposition of 135 claimants to fully determine if there were really human rights violations committed against the 9,539 victims.  The depositions were submitted to the Federal Court of Hawaii.  The Federal Court of Hawaii granted compensatory damages to the victims totaling $776M. 

A jury trial with every element of due process resulted in the US$2B judgment or about US$ 200,000 per victim. 

The decision was affirmed by the US Ninth Court of Appeals.  After the 90-day period for a final appeal to Supreme Court lapsed on March 18, 1997, the ruling became final leaving Mrs. Imelda Marcos’ last minute appeal unrecognized. 

It has been ten years now since the US Supreme Court ruled that US$2B be paid as exemplary damages, yet the human rights victims are left to continue to wait for what is their due.   


The Class Members and Claimants 1081, Inc.


What is Claimants 1081, Inc. and its role in the Class Suit?


The Claimants 1081, Inc.  is an organization exclusive to the class suit members, i.e. those legitimate claimants recognized by the Hawaii Federal District Court.  It held its Founding Assembly on October 20, 1994, during which an interim Board of Directors was elected into office. 

The lead counsel, Atty. Robert Swift, recognizes the organization as the representative of its members.  Consequently, the organization coordinates with him and other lawyers for the successful conclusion of the class suit.  Claimants 1081, Inc. cannot claim representation of all claimants.  However, the organization offers its help to the class members in relation to their claims.


Who are the Class Suit Members? 

The 9,539 members in the human rights class suit against the Marcos estate are all Filipinos and are predominantly from the rural poor who belong to the marginalized sectors of Philippine society. 

Over half of the victims are already deceased and their legitimate heirs are now entitled beneficiaries of the compensation.  Approximately, a third of the claimants are from Mindanao, majority of them are Muslims.


What are the Objectives and Principles of Claimants 1081, Inc.?


The Claimants 1081, Inc. represents its Claimant member; serves as spokesperson in relation to the class suit.  It helps in the processing of claims of class suit members.  It organizes and mobilizes class members on class-related issues.  It also conducts campaigns and lobbies for the suit and larger human rights issues.  It seeks to help other human rights victims as well as participate in the over all human rights work. 

Claimants 1081, Inc. condemns all human rights violations.  It stands for the interest of class suit members in relation to the class suit and interests of the human rights victims in general.  It also works for the eradication of all vestiges of fascism and dictatorship in society. 

In perspective, Claimants 1081, Inc. hopes to be part of the over-all efforts to transform society towards achieving national freedom and democracy.  In the process, the organizations aims to work for economic, social and cultural progress based on upholding human rights


What is the perspective of Claimants 1081, Inc. after the claim is won? 

Claimants 1081, Inc. will establish and develop programs to help the other human rights victims during the Marcos dictatorship “especially those who were victims but were not members of the class suit.”  The organization shall participate in the over-all human rights advocacy.


How Can One Become a Member of Claimants 1081, Inc.?


To be qualified as a member, one must be listed in the claimants’ list in the Federal District Court of Hawaii and adhere to the principles and programs of the organization. 

Agnes Rio is one of the founding members of Claimants 1081, Inc. She is currently its corporate secretary. She used to be the regional director of the Task Force Detainees - National Capital Region. A strong advocate for women’s rights, she is also a member of SARILAYA, a nationwide Philippine organization of women with a socialist-feminist orientation. 

VOICE August 2007


Copyright 2007  AFAD - Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
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