On recovering the Marcos ill-gotten wealth
(The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2019 - 12:00am

This is to correct the misleading and baseless statements in the editorial entitled “Looking the other way,” which was published on 14 February 2019. There is absolutely no truth to the allegation that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has been remiss of its duties in ensuring that the Republic recovers the Marcos ill-gotten wealth. In fact, the OSG has continued to be vigilant and persistent in its efforts to prosecute all cases involving ill-gotten wealth.

The Monet, Sisley, and Marquet paintings, among others, are the subject of an interpleader case filed by the District Attorney of New York (DANY). An interpleader case is a civil procedure that allows a party to initiate a lawsuit to settle the ownership of property. Among the respondents in this case are the Republic and Imelda Marcos. Unfortunately, even before it informed the OSG of the DANY case, the PCGG, during the time of former Chairman Andres Bautista, already authorized its US lawyer, Mr. Kenneth Murphy, to “exercise a limited waiver of sovereign immunity.” Worse, there is no record of a PCGG resolution approving the said waiver.

The OSG told the PCGG that the paintings are already the subject of forfeiture proceedings before the Sandiganbayan. It recommended that the PCGG limit its participation in the interpleader case to asserting sovereign immunity and filing the Motion for a partial summary judgment on the paintings which was drafted by the OSG. This is the legal strategy which was used by the OSG in the US Arelma case which resulted in the recovery of $42 million in Marcos ill-gotten wealth for the Republic.

We stress that it is the PCGG that is actively pursuing and participating in the DANY case involving the three paintings. The OSG’s knowledge of the case is limited to whatever information the PCGG shares to it. For context, under the law, it is the PCGG which is primarily tasked to investigate, gather evidence, recover, preserve, and conserve all Marcos assets, and prevent their disappearance, loss, or dissipation pending the final determination by the courts that they constitute ill-gotten wealth. On the other hand, the OSG, as the statutory counsel of the Republic and its agencies, is merely tasked to assist the PCGG in the prosecution of all ill-gotten wealth cases.

It was only last 9 January 2019 that the PCGG, through Commissioner Rey Bulay, informed the OSG of the November 2018 sale of the DANY paintings. The OSG requested for details of the sale, and warned the PCGG to refrain from allowing the disposal or transfer of the paintings without the approval of the Sandiganbayan. However, Commissioner Bulay has been very uncooperative in apprising the OSG of any information regarding the sale of the paintings. The PCGG appears keen on entering into a compromise agreement in the DANY case despite the strong opposition of the OSG. The OSG has already warned the PCGG that its persistent participation in the DANY case is inimical to the best interest of the Republic. 

Lastly, the OSG gives utmost regard to the media as the watchdog of society. In the interest of responsible journalism, we invite you to look into the records of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth forfeiture proceedings (Civil Case No. 0141), which are readily available at the Sandiganbayan, to confirm the facts we narrated and to have a complete understanding of the proceedings. The OSG has nothing to hide. — Senior State Solicitor HECTOR CALILUNG, State Solicitor JEANIE BACONG, OSG Spokespersons

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