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Sandigan upholds dismissal of P102 billion Marcos wealth case

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 2/19/2020 Elizabeth Marcelo
Ferdinand Marcos et al. posing for the camera: Sandigan upholds dismissal of P102 billion Marcos wealth case © Sandigan upholds dismissal of P102 billion Marcos wealth case

MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has affirmed the dismissal of the P102-billion civil forfeiture case against the Marcos family and their alleged cronies, citing the failure of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to raise any new argument in its appeal.

“Considering therefore that no new and compelling grounds were presented, the present motion (for reconsideration) bears no weight in calling for a reversal much less modification of the assailed decision,” the court’s Second Division said in its ruling promulgated on Feb. 13.

In its Aug. 5, 2019 decision, the Second Division said the PCGG, represented in court by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), failed to present any relevant documentary evidence and witness to hold former first lady Imelda Marcos and her husband, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, liable for moral and exemplary damages.

Aside from the Marcos spouses, also cleared in the forfeiture case were 11 of their supposed cronies: Jose Tengco Jr., Placido Mapa Jr., Rafael Sison, Don Ferry, Ramon Monzon, Generosa Olazo, Cynthia Cheong, Ma. Luisa Nograles, Leopoldo Vergara, Jose Africa and Rodolfo Arambulo.

Filed by the PCGG on July 31, 1987, the forfeiture case stemmed from the alleged grant of excessive loans to several firms, particularly the shipping companies owned by the late ambassador to Japan Roberto Benedicto, during the martial law regime.

The Second Division had earlier dropped Benedicto’s estate from the case, citing the finality of the Supreme Court’s judgement on the validity of a compromise agreement that the PCGG entered with Benedicto on Nov. 3, 1990.

The PCGG withdrew its cases against Benedicto in exchange for the government’s takeover of his California Overseas Bank account and his shares in Oriental Petroleum.

Benedicto also agreed to the government’s takeover of his rights over state broadcast network International Broadcasting Corp. (IBC-13) and several provincial radio stations amounting to P3.074 billion, as well as his three parcels of land in Bataan in the name of Piedras Petroleum Corp. with a combined value of P70.016 million.

The Marcos couple, as well as several officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Benedicto-owned shipping companies, Molave Bulk Carriers Inc., Aklan Bulk Carriers Inc., Fuga Bulk Carriers Inc., Coron Bulk Carriers Inc. and Ecija Bulk Carriers Inc., remained as defendants in the case.?In its new ruling, the Second Division maintained that the PCGG failed to establish collusion among the Marcos couple and the remaining defendants in enriching themselves by plundering government coffers.

“The mere fact that the remaining defendants had held key positions in the government during the term of then President F. Marcos does not lead to the conclusion that defendants took advantage of their positions and embarked upon devices, schemes and strategies to unjustly enrich themselves,” the Second Division’s resolution read.

“Simply put, mere allegation and presentation of proof of the positions and/or affiliations of the remaining defendants do not suffice. It is equally important for the plaintiff to adduce preponderant evidence which would establish that the remaining defendants collaborated with their co-defendants in unlawfully accumulating wealth to the prejudice of the government,” it added.

The court also maintained that the PCGG’s pieces of documentary evidence, the majority of which were photocopies, failed to prove the allegations against the defendants.

“Despite the considerable length of time for the plaintiff to gather and collate all relevant documentary evidence to prove its causes of action against the defendants, it miserably failed to produce the originals of the documents during trial,” the Second Division said.

In its complaint, the PCGG alleged that Benedicto’s companies and dummies secured unlawful deals from the state, such as disadvantageous loans from DBP, exemption from paying taxes and condonation of his multimillion-peso corporate debts.

The civil complaint further stated that Benedicto unjustly enriched himself and the Marcoses with funds meant for the improvement of the facilities of state broadcast networks IBC-13, Radio Philippine Network Inc. (RPN-9) and Banahaw Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-2). Benedicto died on May 15, 2000.

The PCGG did not specify in its complaint the total amount of public funds it sought to recover or to be forfeited from Benedicto and the Marcoses but asked for at least P102 billion in moral and exemplary damages as well as actual, temperate and nominal damages in sums left at the discretion of the court.

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