MANILA, Philippines – Presumed Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is destined for Malacañang with a challenge none of his predecessors possessed: a permanent contempt sentence issued by a US court in connection with a class action lawsuit. humans against their late dictator-father.
As head of state and chief diplomat, Marcos Jr. it will carry out state visits to different countries, including the United States, the only ally of the Philippines treaty and one of its oldest partners. But how can this unfold?
Robert Swift, the American attorney working to recover assets to distribute to victims of Martial Law, previously said that a visit by Marcos Jr.
Records from the United States District Court and the Court of Appeals show that Marcos is being held in contempt for “contemptuous conduct causing direct harm to [a class of human rights victims].” Since the contempt sentence was handed down in 1995, the amount involved for continuous contempt has already reached US$ 353 million in 2011. Marcos Jr. has evaded payment for the order.
Rappler also obtained court records that showed that in 2019, a new judge extended the order to January 25, 2031, covering well the six years Marcos Jr.
If Mark Jr. invited on a state visit or see the need to travel to the US as head of state, what would the process be?
Securing court permission
There are at least two ways Marcos Jr. travel to the United States when he is officially president of the Philippines.
Former Philippine ambassador to the US Raul Rabe said an invitation to the United Nations (UN) to attend a UN-sponsored event could lead Marcos Jr. located.
Events like the annual UN General Assembly would fall under this option, which heads of state often attend in person or virtually, as has happened in recent years due to the pandemic.
A second scenario would be when the US government extends an invitation to Marcos Jr. In this case, Rabe said the US State Department would need to secure permission from the courts based on the fact that Marcos Jr.’s visit. from the country.
Rabe stressed, however, that this option would not be isolated from politics. “The second opinion is fraught with political implications and could present difficulties for the Biden administration, as well as possible embarrassment for the guest,” Rabe told Rappler in an interview.
Therefore, any invitation would only be extended if there were guarantees that Marcos Jr., as Philippine president, would be able to enter the United States with ease.
“Of course the Biden administration will respect the courts because of their co-equal status, but I don’t think they will extend the invitation without first checking with the court if they will allow him to come without embarrassing him,” said the former. Filipino ambassador. to the US, said José Cuisia.
He added: “They will not extend the invitation if he is arrested there and if President Biden extends the invitation it is because they hope to have a better relationship between the US and the Philippines.”
In a previous email interview with Rappler, Swift said that Marcos Jr. will not automatically face an arrest warrant if and when you travel to the US. What a visit would do is trigger moves by lawyers like him to move the court to enforce the sentence, including issuing a subpoena.
If this is still ignored, they can apply for an arrest warrant, Swift said.
But that’s how it was when Marcos Jr. was still an ordinary citizen. Anna Patricia Saberon, a faculty member at Ateneo de Naga University who teaches international relations, said that as president, Marcos Jr. shall enjoy immunity for being the head of state, a customary practice under international law.
That immunity will allow him to travel to the US as the leader of the Philippines, and “the cases against him would fall in his personal capacity,” Saberon said.
Indeed, the permanent contempt order against Marcos Jr. would not affect his functions as president if a state visit were to be carried out.
“Under customary international law, as long as they are in that official role or position, they are acting for the benefit of the State, their actions are for the benefit of the Philippines, not their individual (interests). So, assuming he accepts the invitation, he goes there because he thinks it will benefit the Philippines as a country,” said Saberon, who previously served as assistant director of the United States division in the Office of American Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Any possible visit to the US that Marcos Jr. can do is sure to bring controversy, considering the Marcos family has refused to acknowledge the widespread corruption, human rights abuses and poverty under their patriarch’s decades-long Martial Law rule.
Mark Jr. and his family also shared history with the United States, which facilitated their escape to Hawaii, where they lived in exile for five years. As Filipinos took to the streets to overthrow Marcos, the late dictator begged Washington and influential Filipinos for help — to stay in power, or at least in the country longer.
Despite this history, a visit by Marcos Jr. to the US as president, however, would embody the broader interests of strengthening the Philippine and US alliance. After six years under President Rodrigo Duterte – whose foreign policy has seen Manila distance itself from traditional allies like the US – Marcos Jr. described the Philippines’ relationship with the US as “very important”.
In a call with US President Joe Biden, Marcos Jr. he also said his government is prepared to work with the US and strengthen relations.
“If the court says no, I think Biden will respect the court’s decision. But I’m sure the court will understand that they need to look at the broader US interests,” Cuisia said.
“I doubt there’s any problem with that, because even the court can find ways to say that this is in the best interests of the US and the Philippine relationship,” he added.
Against this backdrop, Saberon said the US would also demonstrate its recognition of democratic processes in the Philippines and the election of Marcos Jr..
“Cases would be suspended in a way that they wouldn’t force and use to say you can’t travel here or that we’re not going to invite you for a visit. I think they will be cordial and try to engage the Philippines through our president,” she said. – Rapper. with