Honeyman: Waterlilies 2

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, February 17, 2014


On 20 January, my article on Monet’s painting, “Waterlilies” appeared in Sun.Star Bacolod.

Monet’s artwork, at one time in the possession of Imelda Marcos, was purchased in 2010 by British hedge fund expert Alan Howard for $43 million. The consequences of this purchase are still unfolding.

Robert Swift, representing some victims of human rights violations during the Marcos era, has filed a class action suit against Imelda Marcos’ former assistant Vilma Bautista for the illegal sale of the painting.

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Swift and Howard discussed the law suit and in June 2013. Howard agreed to pay the class action group $10 million for a legal release from all claims to the painting.

The $10 million paid by Howard was deposited in the class action settlement fund in the federal court in Hawaii which is handling the rights victims’ case.

Swift has reportedly mailed his clients to inform them that they are entitled to P50, 000 each. Unfortunately, such are the vagaries of the postal system, not all claimants have received Swift’s missive. The non-recipients include Gabriela party-list Rep Luz Ilagan who says that she will file a resolution in Congress to examine the performance of Philippine Post.

We agree. We believe also that Swift should provide a timeline of the process. When did Howard pay $10 million? What has happened since? Who decided that P50,000 is fair payment to Swift’s clients? What are Swift’s fee arrangements (though we assume he would be working on a contingency fee basis-usually at least 30 percent - in this case at least $3 million)? When did Swift send the notice that his clients could claim P50,000? Is the $10 million in an interest bearing account? What happens to the interest?

There are other questions. Recently, the Sandiganbayan ruled that a collection of jewels owned by Imelda Marcos is “ill gotten” and is therefore forfeited in favor of the Nation. If the government has a claim on Imelda’s baubles, why not Monet’s Waterlilies?

***

Over 400 victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime have now received checks of P50,000 each from Swift. This amounts to under $0.5 million. Another $9.5 million (less Swift’s fees) paid by Howard remains to be accounted for.

In February 2013, PNoy signed Republic Act 10368 – the “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act” – into law. But as Rep. Ilagan points out this Act has not yet been implemented and victims of Human Rights violations have not received the reparations that were intended by the Act.

The first step in implementing R.A. 10368 is for PNoy to appoint the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. He finally announced its composition last week, almost a year after the Act was passed.

The Claims Board now has the job of evaluating the seriousness of the depredations experienced by the claimants as a result of abuses incurred during the Marcos regime. A points system is specified by the Act.

“The Board shall then compute the final monetary value of the award that is equivalent to the numerical value of one point multiplied by the number of points that a claimant is entitled to, as previously determined by the Board.” [Sec 19(c) of the Act]

This begs the question as to how the Board calculates the monetary value of one point. Since, however, P10 billion is set aside for Marcos victims,’ the point value may be determined on the basis that a total of P10 billion is to be disbursed. Or not?

Will Swift’s clients be eligible under R.A. 10368?

***

‘The opera ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings’ - Dan Cook, Washington Post, 3 June 1978

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 17, 2014.

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