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First payments will finally be made to Marcos victims who suffered human rights abuses

By Nelson Daranciang

LAST UPDATED: 10:32 p.m. HST, Jan 13, 2011

A federal judge approved this morning the distribution of $10 million to the surviving claimants who successfully sued Ferdinand Marcos for the human rights abuses they suffered during the 20 years he ruled the Philippines under martial law.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real approved giving $1,000 to each of the 7,526 eligible claimants in the landmark class-action lawsuit.

None of the claimants were in court for this morning's hearing. Most of them live in the Philippines. About 70 of them live in the United States and Canada. 

There were more than nine thousand plaintiffs when the court approved their lawsuit for class certification in 1987.

The money is the first payment any of the victims will receive from a $2 billion judgment handed down by the court in 1995.

Real also approved the distribution of the remaining $2.5 million for lawyer fees and expenses.

The $10 million was collected in a settlement with three corporations created by Marcos cronies that own 4,500 acres of land in Texas and Colorado. The land was purchased in the 1970s and 1980s with Marcos money.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they hope to collect another $70 million from Marcos accounts in New York and Singapore. And they are attempting to collect a share of about $1 billion in an escrow account of funds previously held in Swiss banks under Marcos family members' names. The Philippine government is also laying claim to the money.

Real also found Marcos' widow Imelda and son Ferdinand R. "Bong Bong" Jr. in contempt as individuals and as executors of the late Philippine dictator's estate for failing to pay the judgment. The order carries with it a $365 million sanction that can be collected from their personal funds.

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