It’s all compromise deals from now on, says PCGG

- Sandy  Araneta () - May 21, 2006 - 12:00am
The winds have shifted on the Marcos wealth cases, with the government now inclined to give the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) free rein to enter into compromise agreements with the former dictator’s family and their cronies.

The government is taking this stand on the Marcos cases to "put it behind us" and "unite our people," PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio said in a recent press conference at the PCGG offices in Mandaluyong City.

"The wish of the President is for us to help put the problems behind us and unite our people. She did not specify that we compromise," Sabio said, though he added that "compromise is the fastest way of terminating these cases if it can be done. The compromise has to be presented to the courts — the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court — when necessary."

He again denied that there was a "direct order" from President Arroyo to "compromise on all cases of the Marcoses and (Marcos) cronies" handled by the PCGG.

Sabio added the proposed compromise deals were "his choice," not the President’s.

He also said he would take a two-pronged approach to the matter of finally settling the litigation against the Marcos family and their cronies by seeking compromise agreements, if legally available, and the continuation of litigation proceedings if amicable settlement is not possible.

When asked if he sought the President’s permission or explained to the Chief Executive what he would do, Sabio said: "Why should I ask her?  Why should I? After all, all of these have to be presented (to the different courts). It is not necessary."

He admitted the PCGG’s shift toward compromise settlements of all the cases was a departure from the PCGG’s long-term strategy under the late PCGG chairwoman Haydee Yorac, which had concentrated on pursuing all cases through litigation.

During her tenure at the helm of the PCGG, Yorac refused to make any compromise agreements regarding the ill-gotten wealth cases of the Marcos family and their cronies.

"Precisely, that failed," Sabio said. "I was here in October (last year and) everything was in a freeze. What happened?" Now, Sabio noted, the PCGG cases are moving forward again.

"Now we are moving. Twenty years of fighting, nothing could happen, nothing has happened," he said. "That’s why we are still there and, in the meantime, the assets sought to be conserved are being dissipated because PCGG does not have the capability to conserve these assets."
For national recovery
He reiterated that, in several cases, the Supreme Court said they encouraged compromise so that the remaining assets could be used for national economic recovery.

"Walang nangyari (Nothing happened)! There’s no need (to explain to the President). The President could understand what we would do. I should not be placed here if I have to go back (and ask her), ‘Ma’am, pwede ba ito (Ma’am, can we do this)?’" Sabio said.

The PCGG chairman said his actions now, including resolving issues with four PCGG commissioners, come from his experience and his judgment. "Otherwise, (the President would) fire me if I am not doing the right thing," he added.

Sabio also said the President did not appoint him as PCGG chairman because she had plans to reach compromise agreements on all the cases.

During the tenure of PCGG Chairman Magtanggol Gunigundo, a compromise deal was in the pipeline, but the Supreme Court rejected the agreement.

On Dec. 9, 1998, the SC ruled that the "compromise settlement" between the PCGG and the Marcoses was illegal and void. The SC said the stipulation to drop pending criminal cases against the Marcoses was an encroachment on judicial power; that the PCGG had no authority to compromise with the Marcoses, the principals in the ill-gotten wealth cases; and that the PCGG had no competence under the Constitution to grant tax exemptions to the Marcos family.

However, Sabio said only this "particular" compromise agreement was rejected — not plans for any future compromise agreements.

"The Supreme Court did not say that ‘no compromise could be made.’ The Supreme Court (only) said this particular compromise is null and void because of these particular provisions," he said.

Sabio said that, in any case, whatever compromise agreements the PCGG come up with will have to be presented to the Supreme Court.

"That’s why the President put me there so that she does not have to think of all of these things," Sabio said. "I hold the rank of a member of the Cabinet and everything that I do in the line of duty is presumptively the act of the President, unless it is reprobated or rejected by the President. That’s why I must first come up with something. I cannot be going back and forth because the President is so busy. There is no need, trust me," said Sabio.

"I will be fired if I am corrupt, if I am doing the wrong thing which will be destroying her administration," he added.

When asked why a different approach was made by the administration to the recovery of the Marcos assets during Yorac’s tenure, Sabio said: "I don’t know what was (going through Mrs. Arroyo’s) mind in appointing Haydee (Yorac). I don’t want to go into that. I do not want to talk about Haydee. She’s not here anymore. She’s a lady."

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