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With Due Respect

P200-B ill-gotten wealth case not lost

The Sandiganbayan (SBN), in Republic v. Marcos (Dec. 16, 2019), dismissed the amended complaint — filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on July 16, 1987 — to recover P200 billion representing some of the alleged ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former president Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda, their children and their cronies. It was docketed as Civil Case No. 0002.

In its complaint, the PCGG alleged that, as “result of their breach of trust… abuse of right and power… and unjust enrichment…,” the defendants should pay actual damages of P200 billion, moral damages of P50 billion, exemplary damages of P1 billion, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses “to be proven at the trial” plus “treble judicial costs.” (pp 2-3)

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However, after over 32 years of wearying litigation, the decision, written by Justice Alex L. Quiroz, egregiously faulted the PCGG for its failure “to prove its allegations by preponderance of evidence.” (p 57)

It lamented that “the bulk of the documentary evidence offered by the plaintiff are mere photocopies, most of which are barely readable. Thus, even if the (SBN) were to defy the best evidence rule, it still could not fully ascertain the contents of these documents and make an intelligent evaluation therefrom.” (p 52)His ponencia was co-signed by Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac, who concurred only “in the result.” Why?

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In her separate opinion, Justice Mañalac pointed out, correctly in my humble opinion, that the “bulk of the assets sought to be recovered in the case had been received by the State, either by compromise agreement or favorable judgment obtained in other related cases, showing that [the] Republic had proven its case by more than [a] preponderance of evidence.” (p.16)

Indeed, the Supreme Court has issued final decisions (some during my term) awarding much of these assets to the government, like:

1)  Republic v. Sandiganbayan (July 15, 2003) forfeited in the nation’s favor Swiss deposits totaling over US$658 million, as of Jan 31, 2002;

2) Yuchengco v. Sandiganbayan (Jan. 20, 2006 and Aug. 6, 2006) reconveyed to the Republic 111,415 controlling shares in the Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corporation, the biggest shareholder of PLDT;

3) Marcos Jr. v. Republic (April 25, 2012) forfeited over $3 million plus accrued interests deposited in the name of Arelma, Inc. in New York; and

4) Estate of Marcos v. Republic (Jan. 18, 2017) forfeited the “Malacañang collection of jewelry.”

On the other hand, a major portion of the litigated assets were turned over to the country voluntarily by Jose Y. Campos (a

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fact affirmed in Republic v. Sandiganbayan, Sept. 7, 2005), and by separate compromise agreements executed between the PCGG and Antonio O. Floirendo (on March 5, 1987 and Nov. 2, 1989), Rodolfo M. Cuenca (March 4, 1990) and Roberto S. Benedicto (Nov. 3, 1990).

Significantly, Justice Mañalac also carefully exhumed a little known SBN resolution dated Dec. 6, 2005, “finding prima facie presumption that the assets and properties in this case are ill-gotten for being manifestly and grossly disproportionate to the legitimate income of the Marcoses… In Republic v. Marcos-Manotoc [Feb. 8, 2012], the Supreme Court did not in any way reverse or modify this Court’s finding of prima facie presumption.” (p 32)Though she prudently catalogued the recovered assets, she nonetheless noted that the PCGG’s memorandum in this case “did not bother to address” which of the litigated assets were still remaining given the cited final judgments, voluntary turnover, compromises and the Dec. 6, 2005 SBN resolution.

I think the PCGG needs to clarify to the SBN and to our disgruntled people, perhaps in a motion for reconsideration, which of the litigated assets are still outstanding, after subtracting those already recovered.

This should not be difficult to do given the PCGG’s boast, in its 2018 Year End Accomplishment Report, that it already recovered over P172 billion “[s]ince its inception in 1986 up to 31 December 2018.”

This will also prove that, contrary to public perception, the PCGG is after all not that inutile, and that this monumental P200 billion ill-gotten wealth case filed during its early hallelujah days was not dismally and sloppily lost.

[Comments to [email protected]]

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, Marcos Ill-Gotten Wealth, Sandiganbayan, With Due Respect
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