Your move, Supreme Court
WELL, BULLY for P-Noy’s Presidential Commission on Good Government and its head, Andy Bautista. It has brought up to the Supreme Court for review the decision of the Sandiganbayan (SB) throwing out Civil Case 0005, the Republic of the Philippines’ 25-year-old case against Lucio Tan (LT) et al. The et al. is a long list: the estate of Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, 26 other individuals (or their heirs), and 18 companies associated with LT, including Allied Bank, Asia Brewery and Fortune Tobacco.
This is a sea change from the PCGG of the previous administration, which seemed, figuratively and arguably literally, to be in the capacious pockets of LT. We’re talking here about Camilo Sabio, Bautista’s predecessor, who was even quoted, perhaps out of context, as saying that Civil Case 0005 was not strong. We’re also talking about then Solicitor General and Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, who was wont to obey the bidding of LT chief counsel Estelito Mendoza. Devanadera, among other things, fired the only PCGG lawyer who, through sheer hard work (including evidence gathering), had built up a solid case against LT—Catalino Generillo. She also refused to allow the government lawyers to negotiate with Mariano Tanenglian, LT’s brother, who was offering to testify against LT in exchange for immunity when the brothers were quarreling with each other. She justified her stand by saying that Tanenglian as witness might weaken the government’s case (!!).
One can easily understand why LT would have been very anxious to have the SB decide the case while the previous administration was in power. It may be my overactive imagination, but it seemed like he was pretty sure of how the SB would decide (on second thought, it isn’t due to overactive imagination: one only had to read the SB rulings to be filled with dismay at how one-sided they were). And if the SB could hand down its decision early enough, then it would be almost certain that Sabio and Devanadera would not bring it to the Supreme Court for review.
Well, he got the decision he wanted from the SB, except it was delayed and came out well into the P-Noy administration (June of this year). What readily comes to mind at this turn of events is that God takes away and God gives. Anyway, the PCGG under new leadership filed a motion for reconsideration, although given the SB’s previous behavior, it was a foregone conclusion that the MR would be denied. And sure enough, it was.
I didn’t get to read the SB’s June and September decisions dismissing the case and reiterating its decision, respectively. But I have read the PCGG’s petition to the Supreme Court, submitted last week, and it was truly an eye-opener, even for me, and I consider myself to be pretty well-versed on the case, seeing as I have been following it and commenting on it for years.
In previous columns I had listed down what had to be the most convincing evidence, both oral and written, showing that LT was merely Ferdinand Marcos’ junior partner in business, the sharing arrangement being 60-40 in favor of Marcos. There was Rolando Gapud, who was the financial adviser (he calls himself the financial executor) of Marcos, and who, aside from revealing who the “cronies” and their business arrangements were, also recounted that LT was trying to negotiate with him to revise the arrangement to 50-50 (Gapud replied that LT should negotiate with Marcos instead). There was Bongbong Marcos, who testified to his father having called him to his office while LT was there, so that he (the young Marcos) could be familiarized with the business enterprises that they owned/controlled. There was Imelda Marcos, who, although she was a corespondent of LT, was angry with him because he reneged on their business arrangements, and described what they were, including documentary evidence (shares endorsed in blank).
And then there were letters and memos from LT or his henchmen with handwritten approvals or directions by Marcos, particularly with regard to the acquisition and subsequent operations of Allied Bank—and Central Bank documents that showed that LT was favored beyond all reason.
But the petition for review listed literally dozens more memos—which I hadn’t been aware of—from LT or his henchmen to Marcos asking for enormous favors in connection with the startups or operations of the LT companies or the purchase or acquisition of other companies by LT. The favors were invariably granted, whether they had to do with import permits or rediscounting facilities, or loans, or tariff and duty exemptions, or dollar loans, or accommodations from the Central Bank, or purchases of government-owned shares in other enterprises at terms disadvantageous to the sellers. Even a road diversion!
In other words, Reader, a mountain of solid evidence.
The logical question, then, is: How could the SB have dismissed the case? Reading through the 270 pages of text in the PCGG petition, one gets glazed eyes. But the nitty-gritty seems to be that the SB justified its position by dismissing much of the documentary evidence on the ground that it was not the original copy (certified true copies not allowed). Not content with that, it then adopted a restrictive definition of ill-gotten wealth that excludes what the PCGG and the law includes: assets and properties acquired by taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence.
That’s how the SB rationalized its actions: It excluded evidence, it redefined the crime.
Supreme Court, please do your stuff.