Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 1

ARMED with accurate and reliable data accessed from the numerous resolutions, decisions, recommendations and press releases open for scrutiny at the UNCC Website, I am now ready to enlighten everybody on the status of claims for compensation by thousands of Filipino claimants. The task of reading through all the official reports, not to mention the time spent in printing out documents (with some totaling to nearly 150 pages), I would say, was enormous. Still suffering from after-effects of a trauma brought about by my mother’s and old nanny’s recent near-death experience, I almost gave up writing about the subject. But as promised the last time, and this time inspired by the truth discovered, I would like now to share what I learned from the UNCC itself. Had it only been possible for me to interview the UN Secretary-General, I would have done so, my dear readers. But alas, the Secretary-General or the Head of the UNCC Governing Council for that matter, I believe will not oblige or honor my humble self! As it is, the letter I sent to the UNCC, through email, remains unanswered. And I doubt, really, if it will even be acknowledged at all! Well, never mind, let us all just make good use of what I have gathered so far. Anyway the truth is there and the UNCC is good enough to report its activities in public. I should really not complain, you know . . . . But let me tell you that there are some data missing – the information needed could have been provided before the establishment of the UNCC website. Nevertheless, I felt confident to speculate and draw conclusions to some missing facts based from the latest data provided. You would know what I mean in here as we go along with the discussion.

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC)

We already know that the UNCC is that body tasked by the United Nations Security Council (SC) to process claims and pay compensation for losses resulting from Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. In its Resolution 687 dated April 3, 1991, the SC made Iraq legally responsible for the losses:

“Iraq is liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations, as a result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait”.

It is interesting to note that Iraq accepted the terms and the legal responsibility for damage directly caused to different entities by its invasion and occupation of Kuwait three days after the adoption of Res. 687. As a result, the SC adopted Res. 692 on May 20, 1991, establishing the UNCC and the UN Compensation Fund. On August 15, 1991, Res. 705 was adopted by the SC approving the Secretary-General’s recommendation that “the compensation to be paid by Iraq, through the Fund, should not exceed 30% of the value of its exports of petroleum and petroleum products”. However, it was only in December 1996, through Res. 986 of April 14, 1995, that the “oil-for-food” scheme was finally launched and the UNCC began to receive 30% of the proceeds of Iraq’s oil sales. Before that, the Commission’s works were carried forward through its access to amount advanced from the Working Capital Fund of the UN, to reimbursable voluntary contributions from Governments and to the proceeds of Iraqi oil sold after the invasion of Kuwait that had since been frozen by various Governments.

The Claims

The UNCC received approximately 2.6 million claims since 1991 and the compensation sought exceeds US$300 billion. There were nearly 100 Governments which submitted claims for their nationals, corporations and/or themselves and some 13 special UN offices also filed claims for “individuals who were not in a position to have their claims filed by Governments”. As of its latest press release dated March 17, 2000, the UNCC has already made available a total amount of US$5,918,127,474.61 to 2,244,513 successful claimants.

Claims were categorized into six: four individual claims (Category A, B, C and D), one for corporations (Category E) and another one for Governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damages (Category F). As far as the Philippine government and Filipino claimants are concerned, the first four categories (Category A,B,C and D) were the only claims submitted to the UNCC.

Category A claims are those submitted by individuals who had to leave Kuwait or Iraq between August 2, 1990 and March 2, 1991. Category B claims are claims submitted by individuals who suffered serious personal injury or death as a result of Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Category C claims are individual claims for damages up to US$100,000 each while Category D claims are those for damages above US$100,000.

Claims filed by Pinoy claimants

You would want to know first, of course, the total number of claims filed by Filipinos before anything else. This information, in fact, was one of the first I looked into and I actually created some tables, making use of Microsoft Excel, summarizing all the information pertaining as well to the total number of claims approved per installment and the corresponding amount recommended for payment by the UNCC including the actual payments made so far. The tables will sure eat up a lot of space and unfortunately I won’t be able to include any of them here. But I am too willing enough to share them to you and if you so desire to keep a copy, you only have to send me an email and I’ll send the tables to you as attachment.

The Filipino claimants share a mere 46,187 of the estimated 2.6 million claims received by the UNCC. Category A claims total to 39,584; only 68 for Category B; 6,528 for Category C claims; and a mere seven claims under Category D. The total number of Category D claims approved for payment was taken from UNCC Decision reports dated June 24, 1999 (S/AC.26/Dec.68) and December 10, 1999 (S/AC.26/Dec.81). All Decisions of UNCC Governing Council could be accessed on the following URL address: http://www.unog.ch/uncc/decision.htm but you need to download a special software in order to open any of the 95 decisions made from the very first, dated August 2, 1991 to the last one, dated March 17, 2000.

Not all claims submitted were approved by the UNCC though. Oh, yes, my dear co-claimants, it’s true! Now we know for sure that the news we heard before that quite a number of claims made by Filipinos were disapproved is true. And do you know how many claims were disapproved? Quite a lot, I’m afraid. It’s 5,972 in all! And this doesn’t include claims denied under Category D, if there was any, that is, as I couldn’t find anywhere any reference to it. There were 5,130 claims in Category A alone disapproved; another 819 in Category C and 23 in Category B. Actually the official number recorded under disapproved claims in Category B is 19. Two claims were duplicates then another four were classified under “other” claims and one as suspended. The suspended one, so it appeared, was granted after all as the total Category B claims approved in the end was 45, not 44 as it was initially reported in one of its decisions.

In all, the number of Filipino claims approved for payment by the UNCC is 40,215 with an over-all total recommended amount of US$167,411,462.16! Broken down into category claims, the following figures, I would claim, are accurate enough, as the numbers were all taken from UNCC’s official reports:

Category A claimants total all to 34,454, drawing a staggering amount of US$135,832,000.00 duly recommended for payment by the UNCC. There were six installments established and every total number of claimants and the corresponding recommended amount for payment was decided during certain meetings identified by dates. First installment, with US$2,195,000.00 recommended for payment to some 550 successful claimants was decided last October 20, 1994; Second – US$5,763,000.00 – 1,453 claimants – dated March 22, 1995; Third – US$5,487,000.00 – 1,542 claimants – May 17, 1995; Fourth – US$30,465,000.00 – 7,778 claimants – October 11, 1995; Fifth – US$31,112,000.00 – 7,778 claimants – December 13, 1995; and Sixth – US$60,810,000.00 – 15,353 claimants – October 15, 1996. Please take note that the last payment made available by UNCC to successful Filipino claimants was last February 17, 2000 in the amount of US$15,559,311.09. Of the total amount, US$11,665,500.00 was in payment for Category A claims belonging to the fifth installment bracket. As reported above, fifth installment payment should be US$31,112,000.00. This means that the UNCC still has to pay US$19,446,500.00 in order to complete its total recommended amount under fifth installment.

Category B claimants, on the other hand, total only to 45 with US$155,000.00 as total amount recommended for payment. There were only three installments decided and Filipino claims were reported under second installment – both part 1 and 2. Second installment, part 1 was decided last December 14, 1994 with only one approved claim for the amount of US$2,500.00. Second installment, part 2 was for 44 approved claims in the amount of US$152,500.00, decided on March 22, 1995. Funds for all 45 claimants had already been released in full by the UNCC as of October 11, 1995. As mentioned in my previous article, this payment for Category B claimants was reported and published in April 1996 on the front page of the maiden issue of Pinoy Expat News, one of my three failed newspapering ventures in Kuwait. All 45 names of claimants were then identified in the paper. Please take note of the date the UNCC released the fund to the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee (PCCC) and the date the information for payment was disseminated by the Philippine government. Granting the amount was finally received, let’s say, a month after the UNCC’s reported payment, there’s still a difference of five months to the time the government released information on the approval of payments!

Category C claims approved for payment were 5,709 in all with a total amount of US$30,964,621.51 recommended for payment by the UNCC. There were seven installments for payment decided by the UNCC and the claims made by Filipinos fall under the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh one. Second installment in the total amount of US$1,329,974.64 for 396 approved claims was decided last May 29, 1996; Fourth – US$727,345.97 – 219 claimants – December 17, 1996; Fifth – US$7,871,819.05 – 2,093 claimants – June 24, 1997; Sixth – US$10,691,744.59 – 1,994 claimants – July 1, 1998; and Seventh – US$10,343,737.26 – 1,007 claimants – June 24, 1999. Included in the last fund release made available to PCCC last February 17, 2000 was an amount of US$3,749,331.09 under Category C, fifth installment. The fund released was short of US$4,122,487.96 from its earlier reported recommended payment of US$7,871,819.05.

Category D claimants were only seven in all with a total recommended amount of US$459,840.65. There were four installments reported and Filipino claims were decided under the last two. Third installment, decided on June 24, 1999 was for only one claimant in the amount of US$20,884.42. Originally, the amount of compensation claimed by the individual was US$106,342.82 but the recommended amount given by the UNCC, as per Decision No. 68 (1999), was US$48,957.18. For reasons known only to them, this amount was again reduced to US$20,884.52, as gathered from UNCC Dec. No. 80 (1999). Fourth installment, part 1, decided on December 9, 1999, reported six claims approved for payment with recommended amount of US$438,956.23. As of the latest release of fund reported February 17, 2000 by the UNCC, US$144,480.00 was partially made available under the fourth installment. A total of US$294,476.23 has still to be funded by the UNCC in order to complete its obligation to the rest of the seven claims approved for payment, granting, that is, that the third installment amount had already been paid. I didn’t find any reference made to the release of fund for the recommended amount.

The same holds true to the previous payments under Category A and C, if any, made available by the UNCC prior to its only reported fund release for the Philippines last February 17, 2000 on its website. Luckily, the last news item I wrote about Gulf War claims approved for payment was based from PCCC documents handed over personally to me by Welfare Officer Ofelia Castro-Hudson in January 1998. According to that report which was published on the front page of the Eye Catchers’ Pinoy News, dated March 1-15, 1998, there were 1,846 claims approved for payment: 1,450 under Category A and 396 under Category C. There was no mention in the news item about the installment number nor the total amount recommended for payment. It was only during the time I encountered the data, in one of the UNCC’s decisions I’ve printed and studied, that I came to know of the said missing information. I’ve filled in the numbers to one of my created tables and in there I noted that my last reported news item fell under second installment of both Category A and C. There was a difference though in the number of claims approved under Category A as reported by me in 1998 and as identified in the UNCC Decision No. 28, dated March 22, 1995. The Pinoy News report showed 1,450 while the UNCC decision report showed 1,453. Three claims were missing! (Don’t tell me that the PCCC deliberately took off three names from the original list coming from the UNCC and kept the fund somewhere?) Category C claims were both reported as 396. By the way, the total fund made available then to the Philippine government by the UNCC, presumably between the months of July and December 1997, was US$7,092,974.64 – US$5,763,000.00 for the 1,453 Category A claims and US$1,329,974.64 for the 396 Category C claims.

As the information already given here is quite long and because there are still a number of interesting subjects not covered, say, for example the current total amount of fund already released by the UNCC to the Philippines or the actual minimum amount paid to individual claimants, I decided to divide my article into two parts. However, depending on the availability of some data missing, which I have a feeling will eventually be filled up by an incoming UNCC decision report and press release (the latest one, by the way, was March 17, 2000), the article can even be continued to Part 3. And if you noticed, I haven’t discussed yet in depth the problems I mentioned in my previous article like the delayed notification of those who already received initial payments and the non-receipt of notice for payment by still quite a number of claimants. And of course, there is that problem encountered by those who already received full payments and yet the amount paid was less than the US$2,500.00 set by UNCC as initial payment. If nationals from other countries – like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – uniformly received a check for US$2,500.00 as initial payments, why did then some Filipino claimants receive even as low as US$500.00 and already considered paid in full by the PCCC? And there is this original problem pertaining to the misuse by government officials of the compensation fund itself. It seems that the government had been quiet about it lately and there was no reference so far made as to decisions came up with by the Philippine Senate, as reportedly a session was to be held last May 8. I have a feeling, my dear readers, that the Filipino Gulf War claimants’ money really “talks”, and loudly, I guess, that’s why everybody’s silent?

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: June 6, 2000 

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