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SC upholds forfeiture of Marcos’ Arelma assets

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld with finality the forfeiture in favor of the Philippine government of the so-called Arelma funds of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos deposited in the United States.

In a six-page resolution promulgated on March 12, the high court affirmed its April 2012 decision and denied the appeal filed by the heirs of the late dictator, including former first lady now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The assailed ruling affirmed a 2009 decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring all assets, properties and funds under the Panamanian firm Arelma Foundation as among the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator and should be forfeited in favor of the government.

“The Sandiganbayan did not err in granting the motion for partial summary judgment, despite the fact that the Arelma account and its proceeds are held abroad,” said the decision penned by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

“To rule otherwise contravenes the intent of the forfeiture law, and privileges violators who are able to hide public assets abroad, beyond the reach of the courts and their recovery by the State,” the SC said.

In 2012, the SC said the Marcoses gave the same alibi in defending the ownership of the Arelma funds, saying they did not engage in any illegal activities and that their properties were lawfully acquired.

The high court said the Marcoses failed to explain how they acquired the Arelma funds, which amounted to $3.37 million in 1983, noting that their lawful income amounted only to $304,372.43 or merely nine percent of the funds.

“There is disparity between the amount of the Arelma funds and the income of the Marcoses as shown in the income tax returns (ITRs) filed by spouses Marcos,” the SC said.

In 2009, the Sandiganbayan said the Marcoses failed to dispute that the Arelma fund was valued at $3.37 million as of 1983.

The funds represented the assets of the former president, originally amounting to $2 million deposited with the Merrill Lynch Securities in New York in 1972 in the name of Arelma Foundation.

The funds had grown to $35 million when the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) discovered them in 2000. As of last year, the total amount was estimated at $40 million.

PCGG chairman Andres Bautista welcomed the SC decision, saying the government would now be able to recover the money from the US.

“The PCGG will endeavor to bring back this money to the Philippine Treasury at the soonest possible time,” Bautista said.

He said the funds would be used for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and for the compensation of human rights victims. – With Helen Flores

ANDRES BAUTISTA

ARELMA

ARELMA FOUNDATION

CHIEF JUSTICE MA

COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM

FERDINAND MARCOS

FUNDS

GOOD GOVERNMENT

MARCOSES

SANDIGANBAYAN

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