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Martial law victims protest lawyers’ fees

Martial law victims protest lawyers’ fees

Complainants in the class action suit for human rights violations against the estate of dictator Ferdinand Marcos have registered their protest over what they call “exorbitant” lawyers’ fees that will be paid to American lawyer Robert Swift and his colleagues.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Jake Almeda Lopez, a claimant and member of the class action, said the work Swift and his associates did should not be rewarded so handsomely, to the point that they will get more than the claimants, or even the Philippine government.

‘Work much easier’

“The work of lawyers in a class suit is much easier than an ordinary case, where all complainants have to be heard by the court,” Lopez said, adding that the Hawaii class action should be “revisited.”

However, lawyer Rodrigo Domingo, the local counterpart of Swift, said that the case was “a complex one” that involved appearances in three continents, and that the 30-percent fee was not exorbitant.

“The attorney’s fees are not exorbitant because it is contingent on Swift’s winning the case, and he gets nothing if he loses,” Domingo said.

Earlier this week, a US court ordered the distribution of $13.75 million to martial law victims who were part of the class action lawsuit.

Judge Real set the fees

The money was allocated for the victims in a settlement agreement reached in January 2019 as their share of $32 million obtained from the sale of four paintings, including a Monet, acquired by Marcos’ widow, Imelda.

Under the deal, the government was to receive $4 million and the remainder to be split between Golden Buddha Corp. and the estate of Roger Roxas, who reportedly discovered the so-called Yamashita treasure.

According to Domingo, Judge Manuel Real, who presided over the lawsuit in Hawaii against Marcos, set the 30 percent lawyers’ fees.

“Class notices were sent to qualified claimants and they were given time to object,” Domingo said.

‘Fair, reasonable’

Domingo added that since there were no objections from members of the class action, the fee was ruled “fair, reasonable and adequate under US law.”

However, Lopez argued that even though there were objections, it was difficult for a protesting claimant to explain his position before the court.

“Requiring a protesting claimant to personally appear in the Hawaii court or to file a formal pleading which requires the services of a US lawyer is expensive,” Lopez said.

Another group of claimants, Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto, said that they also felt that the lawyer’s fees were exorbitant.

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