Fault in dismissal of Marcos wealth cases
I read the three rather lengthy recent decisions of the Sandiganbayan (SBN) dismissing the ill-gotten wealth cases against former president Ferdinand and first lady Imelda Marcos and their alleged cronies, and I am convinced the fault lies squarely with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
Their failure to observe the very basic rules of procedure is appalling and incredible. In the first decision, 67 pages, Republic v. Benedicto (Aug. 5, 2019, Second Division, composed of Justices Lorifel Lacap Pahimna, ponente, Oscar C. Herrera Jr., chair, and Michael Frederick L. Musngi), the SBN lamented, in part:
“It saddens the Court that it took more than 30 years before this case (was) submitted for decision and yet, the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence…” (p.65)
It observed correctly that an “affidavit is classified as hearsay evidence if not properly authenticated and identified by the affiant or maker… Plaintiff also failed to illustrate how defendants acted as dummies of Imelda Marcos in acquiring ill-gotten wealth.” (p.55)
In the second case, 30 pages, Republic v. Tantoco (Sept. 25, 2019, Second Division also, but penned this time by Justice Musngi), the SBN ruled, again correctly in my humble opinion, that most of the documentary exhibits were excluded because they were not presented during the “discovery proceedings, despite directives of the Court and the Supreme Court.” (p.22)
Several other documents were likewise denied admission “for being mere photocopies, which failed to comply with the Best Evidence Rule.” (p.22)
And the rest were “manifestly insufficient to prove the allegations in the complaint… that defendant Tantocos… in unlawful concert with the defendants Marcoses collaborated in schemes, devices and stratagems to appropriate and conceal the ownership of illegally obtained assets.” (pp.26-27)
In the third case, 37 pages, Republic v. Gimenez (Oct. 14, 2019, Fourth Division, composed of Justices Alex L. Quiroz, chair and ponente, Reynaldo P. Cruz and Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega), the SBN granted, again correctly in my view, the “Demurrer to Evidence” of the defendants without requiring them to present countervailing evidence because:
“… it is an undisputed fact that most of the documents submitted by the Republic (were) mere unauthenticated photocopies. No explanation was proffered… as to why the original copies of these exhibits were not presented… Absent a clear showing that the originals… have been lost, destroyed or cannot be produced in court, the Republic’s photocopied exhibits must be disregarded…” (p.26)
On the other hand, a private document cannot be admitted in evidence unless it is “authenticated either by (a) the person who executed it, (b) the person before whom its execution was acknowledged, (c) any person who was present and saw it executed, or who after its execution, saw it and recognized the signatures, or [d] the person to whom the parties to the instruments had previously confessed execution thereof.” (p.29)
As if lecturing them on basic procedures was not enough, the SBN reminded the OSG and the PCGG of Republic v. Manotoc (Feb. 8, 2012) which chastised them quite excruciatingly, thus:
“… the best evidence rule has been recognized… since the 18th century… [and] has been practiced as one of the most basic rules in law. It is difficult to conceive that one could have finished law school and passed the bar examinations without knowing such elementary rule. Thus, it is deeply disturbing that the PCGG and the (OSG)—the very agencies sworn to protect the interest of the state and its people—could conduct their prosecution in the manner that they did… The lawyers of these government agencies are expected to be the best in the legal profession… However, despite having the expansive resources of the government, (they) did not even bother to provide any reason whatsoever for their failure to present the original documents or the witnesses to support the government’s claims… Such manner of legal practice deserves the reproof of this Court…” (p.36)
Need I say more?
Comments to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.