Sandiganbayan junks another ill-gotten wealth case vs. Marcoses
MANILA, Philippines – The Marcoses scored another victory against the government after the Sandiganbayan dismissed a civil case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth worth P1.052 billion.
The Second Division’s decision, dated September 25 but only obtained by the media on Tuesday, was hinged on the insufficiency of evidence to prove that Bienvenido Tantoco and his other relatives, acted as a dummies of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family in acquiring expensive assets.
The Tantocos were facing an expanded complaint for reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution, and damages as they allegedly acquired franchise to operate duty-free shops meant to conceal the ownership of the alleged illegally obtained assets.
“The plaintiff adds that the defendants managed to secure presidential approval for them to operate and manage exclusively duty-free shops and to pay only a minimum franchise tax of seven percent,” the court said, citing the prosecution’s claims.
“This franchise tax was also allegedly shared with the Nutrition Center of the Philippines with the defendant Imelda Marcos as President, the Manila Seedling Foundation with defendant Tantoco Jr. as President […] but only two percent went to the government coffers and the remaining five percent became defendant Imelda Marcos’ source of petty cash,” the court added.
Some of the alleged Tantoco shares in major companies were also mentioned by the prosecution. However, the anti-graft court insisted that the documents and witnesses presented by the state prosecutors did not prove that there was conspiracy between the two families.
“Evidently, the plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” Sandiganbayan said.
“The alleged participation of the defendants in securing the issuance of the presidential decree was not established. Moreover, the claim that five percent of the franchise tax went to defendant Imelda Marcos has no evidentiary support,” it added.
According to the decision penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, only four witnesses were presented by the prosecution, while only 11 documents were admitted.
Exhibits labeled as “MMM” up to “AAAAAA” were not allowed to be used in court because the prosecution did not show these in the discovery proceedings, even after an order from Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court.
The anti-graft court added that some of the other exhibits presented by the prosecution, in this case the PCGG are not were not certified true copies of the documents.
“The other exhibits were also denied admission by the court for being mere photocopies, which failed to comply with the Best Evidence Rule,” Sandiganbayan said.
“The loan agreement was not even presented, nor its allegedly illicit purpose even established. Verily, the plaintiff did not even present any competent witness to testify on this financial transaction
Aside from the duty-free shops, other assets involved in the case include several real estate properties in the United States and in the Philippines, and businesses like Rustan International Marketing and Eagle Mining Corporation.
The properties specified by the prosecution are the following:
- Residential land in Honolulu, Hawaii
- Two parcels of residential land in Forbes Park, Makati City
- Parcel of land in Pihan Island
- Parcel of land in Tubod, Iligan City
- Parcel of land in Muntinlupa City
- Parcel of land named to Rustan Investment and Management Corporation in Antipolo City and Cainta, Rizal
- Two parcels of land named to Rustan Investment and Management Corporation in Parañaque City
- Parcel of land named to Rustan Investment and Management Corporation in Makati City
- Parcel of land named to Rustan Realty Corporation in Mandaluyong City
- Parcel of land in Mandaluyong City
- House and lot in Antica, Rome
This is the second forfeiture case against the Marcoses and their friends which was dismissed this year. Earlier in August, the same division dismissed another P102 billion forfeiture case against Marcos’ kin and alleged cronies. /muf
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