Do the Marcoses have ill-gotten wealth?
This question was hotly discussed during the past days as the nation marked the imposition of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos on Sept. 23, 1972 (not Sept. 21).
In many decisions, the Supreme Court answered this question with a clear and unqualified “Yes.” Let us recall some of them as signed by the different chief justices and justices during several presidential regimes.
Perhaps the most damning is Republic v. Sandiganbayan (July 15, 2003) penned by J (later CJ) Renato C. Corona, concurred in unanimously by CJ Davide, JJs Bellosillo, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez, Carpio Morales, Callejo, Azcuna, and Tinga; Puno and Vitug (“in the result”); Quisumbing and Sandoval-Gutierrez, on official leave; and Carpio, no part; issued during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).
In this milestone, the Court forfeited in favor of the Republic over $658 million (plus interests from Jan. 31, 2002) owned by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos but hidden in front foundations and organizations.
Moreover, the Court also held that “$304,372.43… [was] the only known lawful income of the [Marcos couple from 1965 to 1985] since they did not file any Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL), as required by law, from which their net worth could be determined.”
This ruling on the lawful income of the Marcoses at about $304,000 only became crucial in subsequent cases which deemed as ill-gotten any cash, deposit, or asset owned by the couple in excess of such sum.
Yuchengco v. Sandiganbayan (Jan. 20, 2006) reconveyed to the Republic the 111,415 controlling shares in the Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp., the biggest shareholder of PLDT. The verdict was penned by J Conchita Carpio Morales, concurred in by CJ Panganiban, JJs Austria-Martinez, Corona, Callejo, and Velasco (in the resolution denying the MR); Puno and Quisumbing, (in the result); Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Nazario, and Garcia, dissented; Carpio, Azcuna, and Tinga, no part; issued also during the presidency of GMA.
The Court’s Second Division, in Marcos Jr. vs Republic (April 25, 2012), unanimously held that the assets, properties, and funds of Arelma S.A. in the sum “of USD 3,369,975 as of 1983, plus all interests and all other income that accrued thereon” were also deemed ill-gotten and forfeited in favor of the Republic. The decision was penned by J (later CJ) Sereno, concurred in by JJs Brion, Abad, Perez, and Reyes; issued during the presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III.
The Court’s First Division, in Estate of Marcos v. Republic (Jan 18, 2017), unanimously affirmed a Sandiganbayan decision which “labeled as ill-gotten and forfeited” in favor of the Republic “the pieces of jewelry, known as the Malacañang Collection.” CJ Sereno penned the decision, concurred in by JJs Del Castillo, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa; issued during the presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
This decision footnoted the petition, dated Dec. 17, 1991, in Civil Case No. 0141 that the Presidential Commission on Good Government filed in the Sandiganbayan listing the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses “approximated at US$5-B…”
The foregoing cases invariably echoed PCGG v. Pena (April 12, 1988) that described the Marcos era as a “well-entrenched plundering regime of twenty years;” and condemned the “magnitude of the past regime’s ‘organized pillage’ and the ingenuity of the plunderers and pillagers with the assistance of the experts and best legal minds…;” penned by CJ Teehankee, concurred in by JJs Yap, Fernan, Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Feliciano, Cruz, Paras, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, and Cortes; Gutierrez, dissented; Griño-Aquino, no part; issued during the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino.
To be fair, let me add that the Marcoses won some cases. For example, due to “apathetic prosecution,” Chavez v. Albano (July 27, 2018) dismissed criminal cases against Imelda (Ferdinand who died in 1989 was no longer indicted) for a violation of the then law banning foreign currency accounts. In the wry words of the ponente, Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, “the prosecution could have done better in this case. Sadly, it failed.”
In several other cases (like Republic v. Benedicto, Aug. 5, 2019; Republic v. Tantoco, Sept. 25, 2019; Republic v. Gimenez, Oct. 14, 2019, etc.), the Sandiganbayan dismissed ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses and their alleged dummies/cronies for the prosecutors’ utter failure to observe simple procedural and evidentiary rules.
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