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With Due Respect

SBN: Not all Araneta assets freed of sequestration

Contrary to some media reports, not all the sequestered assets of Gregorio “Greggy” Araneta III, son-in-law of former president Ferdinand Marcos, have been freed by the Sandiganbayan (SBN). Only properties “in his name” were cleared of sequestration but not those “attributed to him.” Why?

First, a short background. On July 16, 1987, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed a complaint in the SBN against Marcos and his heirs, including Greggy who was (and still is) married to his daughter Irene, to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth.

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As a consequence, the assets of Northern Express Transport Inc. (which bought the properties of Pantranco North Express Inc.), Imexco Enterprise Inc., Phil. Semi-Conductor Devices Inc., Golden Needle Inc. and High Five Philippines Inc. were sequestered by the PCGG as they “purportedly” belonged to Greggy.

On Dec. 6, 2005, the SBN granted Greggy’s demurrer to evidence for PCGG’s failure “to present evidence that the properties under the name of defendant Araneta (were) ill-gotten.” The Supreme Court upheld the SBN in Republic vs Marcos-Manotoc on Feb. 8, 2012.

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Subsequently, Greggy asked the SBN to lift the sequestration, explaining that the grant of his demurrer in 2005 dropped him as a defendant from the 1987 complaint. Thus, he prayed for the release of all sequestered properties “attributed to him.”

In response, the PCGG contended that Greggy’s motion was premature, because the issue of whether the sequestered assets were parts of the alleged P200-billion ill-gotten wealth of Marcos has not been finally adjudged in Civil Case No. 0002.

The SBN Special Fourth Division (composed of Justices Alex L. Quiroz, Division chairperson and ponente, Maria Theresa Y. Mendoza-Arcega and Zaldy V. Trespeces) granted Greggy’s motion by “lifting the sequestration of properties in the name of Gregorio Araneta III…”

It explained that its 2006 resolution as affirmed by the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision nullified “only the sequestration orders of the properties in the name of Araneta (italics in original)… The (SBN) did not make a similar ruling therein regarding properties allegedly ‘attributed’ to Araneta.”

It noted that this 2006 resolution has become final and executory. And “that once a judgment attains finality, it thereby becomes immutable and unalterable.”

My humble comment: True, the 2006 SBN resolution has become final and unalterable. And true also, the current 2019 SBN order adhered literally to the wordings of its 2006 resolution lifting the sequestration of the assets “in the name of  Araneta” without expressly mentioning those “attributed” to him.

However, I believe the 2006 resolution should be understood liberally, not literally, to include those “attributed” to him, for three reasons: First, those assets were sequestered on the assumption that they were ill-gotten. However, after Araneta was exonerated due to the PCGG’s failing, no more reason remained for their continued sequestration.

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Second, the sequestered corporations are not parties in Civil Case 0002 and therefore have no personality to ask for a lifting of their sequestration, even if there is no more reason for it. Basic fairness demands their release after being under the yoke of PCGG custodianship for over 30 years, so they could function normally like other businesses.

Third, due process should be accorded the other shareholders (our laws require at least five owners in every corporation) and officers who had been prejudiced by the sequestration. If, for other reasons, the PCGG believes that these assets should be re-

sequestered, then it should have applied for a new sequestration. The sequestrations issued due to Araneta’s alleged involvement with Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth have been judged to be improvident and can no longer justify further PCGG custodianship.

While I sympathize and support the struggle to track, trace and recover criminally-acquired wealth, at the same time, I also believe that this effort must be pursued in accordance with the rule of law and due process. Otherwise, the crusaders for good government would be no different from the raiders of the nation’s treasures.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, Ferdinand Marcos, Gregorio Araneta III, Irene Marcos, PCGG, sequestered Araneta assets, With Due Respect
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