I. A. Rehman gets Magsaysay Award

Published August 3, 2004

MANILA, Aug 2: A Philippine lawyer who has helped recover nearly 700 million dollars stashed away in Swiss banks by late president Ferdinand Marcos was awarded Asia's equivalent of the Nobel prize on Monday.

The Manila-based Ramon Magsay say Award Foundation named Haydee Yorac as one of this year's seven winners for her work in government service as the leading lawyer searching and recovering ill-gotten Marcos wealth.

The other award winners were:

- Pakistan's Ibn Abdur (I. A.) Rehman and India's Laxminarayan Ramdas for peace and international understanding.

- Jiang Yanyong, a retired military doctor from China who fought the deadly threat of SARS, for public service;

- Prayong Ronnarong, a Thai farmer, for community leadership;

- Abdullah Abu Sayeed of Bangladesh for journalism, literature and creative communication arts;

- Filipino Benjamin Abadiano for emergent leadership, and;

The Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in 1957 in honour of the third Philippine president to recognise people who show selfless service.

Marcos and his wife Imelda are suspected of plundering up to 10 billion dollars during his two-decade rule that ended in a peaceful "People Power" revolt in Feb 1986.

"Ms Yorac is being recognized for building the people's confidence in government through service of exceptional integrity and rigour and her unwavering pursuit of the rule of law in the Philippines," the foundation said in a statement.

Yorac, 62, is the feisty head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the state agency tasked with recovering the Marcos's ill-gotten wealth. She first served in government in the late 1980s as human rights commissioner before becoming election commissioner, head of an anti-corruption agency and finally head of the agency hunting the Marcos billions.

Under her leadership, the agency made the single largest recovery of Marcos money in 18 years after the Philippine Supreme Court awarded 658 dollars million from a Swiss account and held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank, to the government last January.

Yorac, who will receive 50,000 dollars for her award, lives with her sister and five dogs. -Reuters

OUR CORRESPONDENT IN DHAKA ADDS: Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed was given the award in recognition of "his cultivating in the youth of Bangladesh a love for literature and its humanising values through exposure to the great books of Bengal and the world", according to the official website of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

The founder of the Dhaka-based Biswa Sahitya Kendra (world literature centre) becomes the eighth Bangladeshi to have won the award.

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