The Philippine Congress approved a bill late Wednesday awarding compensation to thousands of victims of martial law during former President Ferdinand Marcos’ rule.
Hundreds of victims of human rights abuses were gathered on the Senate grounds while the bicameral conference committee deliberated upon the bill, which had been languishing in the legislative mill for almost 25 years.
Under the final version of the bill approved by the committee late Wednesday, payments amounting to more than 10 billion pesos ($246 million) to the victims will be drawn from the funds recovered by the government from Marcos' ill-gotten gains.
The Philippines was marked by rapid economic development and a flourishing democracy until President Ferdinand Marcos, a close ally of the U.S., took over and imposed martial law in the early 1970s.
His corrupt and repressive rule, during the period of martial law from Sept. 21, 1972 up to his downfall on Feb. 25, 1986, led to economic stagnation and growing public discontent, leading to mass protests that cost him the support of the armed forces.
Marcos fled the Philippines leaving behind a foreign debt of $27 billion. He went to Hawaii, where he died Sept. 28, 1989.
The Philippines government received funds from Marcos family’s hidden accounts in Switzerland after the Swiss Supreme Court Dec. 10, 1997 ordered the money to be transferred to the Philippines government.
About 10,000 people or their relatives who have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, property confiscation, sexual offences and execution during the martial rule are among those who can claim the compensation.
The bill also recognizes those who had filed a case against Marcos before the U.S. Federal District Court in Hawaii and were given favorable judgment.
An independent body will be formed to evaluate and assess compensation claims, with the amount of compensation to be based on the gravity of the abuse the claimants endured.
The bill is expected to be ratified by a plenary session of the Congress Monday, before it is signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III.
Marcos' family has since returned to the Philippines and continues to wield power and influence in the country, with his wife Imelda currently a member of the lower chamber of the Congress while his son is a senator.