Sandiganbayan junks P200-billion forfeiture suit vs Marcos family

Sandiganbayan junks P200-billion forfeiture suit vs Marcos family
An undated photo of the Marcos family during the presidency of dictator Ferdinand Marcos from government archives.
Official Gazette

MANILA, Philippines — A division of the Sandiganbayan has junked P200-billion civil forfeiture case against the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos due to insufficiency of evidence.

The Fourth Division of the anti-graft court dismissed the forfeiture case against Marcos, his wife Imelda and children Sen. Imee Marcos, former Sen. Bongbong Marcos and Irene Marcos Araneta; and Constante Rubio, the family’s “confidante,” due to the Philippine Commission on Good Governance’s failure to “prove its allegations by preponderance of evidence.”

The case stemmed from the 1987 complaint filed by the PCGG that seeks to recover P200 billion worth of ill-gotten wealth allegedly amassed during martial law.

The PCGG said the Marcoses also obtained massive loans, guarantees and other types of financial accommodations from government banks through overpriced projects; received kickbacks, commissions and bribes from persons and corporations entering into contracts with the government; established monopolies in commerce particularly in agriculture and gambling; and illegal sale of various government corporations and properties.

The PCGG said the Marcos couple stashed the illegally acquired wealth in several banks locally and abroad, as well as in several foundations. The PCGG said the couple also used the funds in the purchase of real estate and shares of stocks.

Among the supposed ill-acquired assets of the Marcoses identified by the PCGG in its complaints were the following:

  • deposits at the Security Bank and Trust (P976 million) and Traders Royal Bank (P711 million);
  • 33 parcels of residential properties with an estimated value of P18 million and a 21,700-hectare agricultural land in Leyte with an estimated value of P33 million;
  • shares of stock in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) estimated at P1.6 billion;
  • deposits in several banks in the United States estimated at $292 million;
  • investments in financial houses, industrial and mining corporations in the US at approximately $98 million;
  • unvalued real properties in Manhattan, Long Island and Fifth Avenue in New York, a penthouse in London, residential houses in Honolulu in Hawaii, Beverly Hills in California and Cedars in Mississippi.

The Sandiganbayan, in its ruling, acknowledged the “atrocities committed during Martial Law under the Marcos regime and the ‘plunder’ committed on the country’s resources,” but stressed that they cannot order forfeiture with lack of sufficient evidence.

“[A]bsent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten by the Marcoses, the Court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury,” the decision read.

The Sandiganbayan also stressed that Supreme Court jurisprudence stressed that “competent evidentiary substantiation is necessary in supporting the plaintiff’s accusation because the Court cannot simply assume that the properties subject of this case were ill-gotten.”

Associate Justice Alex Quiroz wrote the decision. Concurring were Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.

Losses at the anti-graft court

This case is the latest in the consecutive losses the PCGG suffered at the Sandiganbayan due to insufficiency of evidence.

Last October 23, the same Sandiganbayan division junked a P267.371 million civil forfeiture case against the Marcos family and spouses Ignacio and Fe Gimenez, business associates of the late strongman.

In a ruling dated September 25, released early October, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division dismissed a P1-billion civil forfeiture case against the Marcoses and their alleged cronies – Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., Bienvenido Tantoco Jr., Gliceria Tantoco, Maria Lourdes Tantoco-Pineda and Dominador Santiago.

In August, the Marcoses and their cronies won a civil forfeiture case that demands P102 billion in moral and exemplary damages.

Earlier in December, the PCGG, however, won a civil forfeiture case against the Marcoses as the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division awarded the shares of three sequestered companies owned by alleged cronies to the government.

Covered by the Third Division’s ruling were the shares of Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc. in the names of Jose Africa and Manuel Nieto Jr.; Polygon Investors and Managers Inc.; Aerocom Investors and Managers Inc.; and small individual shares held by Victor Africa, Lourdes Africa, Rosario Songco, Raquel Dinglasan, Manuel Nieto III, Ramon Nieto, Victoria Legarda, Ma. Rita Delos Reyes, Rosario Arellano, Angelo Lobregat, Benito Nieto, Carlos Nieto, Carmen Tuazon and Rafael Valdes. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Elizabeth Marcelo

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