Sandigan annuls PCGG land sharing scheme

- Efren Danao () - April 14, 2000 - 12:00am

The Sandiganbayan has annulled a sharing scheme between the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and some private individuals over some sequestered properties that would have deprived the government of P1.8 billion.

In a decision promulgated late in the night of April 11, the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan presided over by Associate Justice Cipriano del Rosario rescinded the compromise agreement between PCGG and the heirs of former Muntinlupa Mayor Maximino Argana.

"It is no compromise but a virtual sellout. It could not have been pulled off without the connivance or collusion of those responsible for the case in the PCGG. Instead of protecting the interest of the government, they connived for its defeat -- almost," the Sandiganbayan said.

The decision, penned by Del Rosario, took the PCGG and the heirs of Argana to task for making it appear that the sharing scheme on the sequestered property hewed to the 75-25 ratio directed by the anti-graft court.

"What was projected to be a 75-25 ratio was in reality a 0.15-99.85 ratio, with the 99.85 percent going to the Arganas," the Sandiganbayan ruled.

It noted that the 75-25 ratio was based solely on the area of the sequestered land without taking into consideration the value of the land.

"It turns out that the 361.092 hectares of agricultural land ceded to the government would have an approximate value of P3.62 million, while the 119.86 hectares of urban land retained by the defendants would be valued at approximately P2.4 billion," Del Rosario said in his decision.

The compromise agreement, forged on June 15, 1998, the final days of the Ramos administration, ceded to the government 361.92 hectares of land owned by Argana in the towns of Famy, San Isidro, Banilan and Pangil, all in Laguna province.

The heirs of Argana retained 119.86 hectares located in Muntinlupa and San Pedro, Laguna.

The Sandiganbayan gave credence to the claim of the Office of the Solicitor General that the sharing scheme is an attempt to cheat the government.

It was pointed out that the agricultural land in Laguna was valued at P10,000 per hectare, or a total value of P3.619 million. On the other hand, the 118.86 hectares in the urban area was estimated to be worth a total of P2.4 billion, at P2,000 per square meter. There are 1,000 square meters per hectare.

If the value of the land is considered in the sharing scheme, then the government should get property worth P1.8 billion, based on the 75-25 ratio, and not just P3.62 million.

"Despite the lengthy and detailed discussion of the properties, including their location, names of registered owners, title numbers, areas, percentage of area in relation to the total area of all the properties sequestered, significantly not a single line was devoted to the value or nature of the properties. Why?" the Sandiganbayan asked.

It also questioned why the PCGG has never bothered to produce any tax declaration, assessment or appraisal to show the assessed or fair market value of the properties during the more than 13 years that they were held under sequestration.

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