Legal bytes: Marcos’ Ill-gotten wealth cases in the Supreme Court
The Marcos dictatorship is a “well-entrenched plundering regime of 20 years”.
Thus ruled the Supreme Court in PCGG v. Peña (GR No. L-77663, April 12, 1988) in relation to the ill-gotten wealth cases where it noted the “magnitude of the Marcos regime’s ‘organized pillage’ and the ingenuity of the plunderers and pillagers with the assistance of the experts and best legal minds available in the market.”
Former SC chief justice Artemio Panganiban earlier enumerated some of the Marcos assets found by the Supreme Court to be “ill-gotten”:
- $658 million (Republic v. Sandiganbayan, (G.R. No. 152154. July 15, 2003)
- PLDT shares (Yuchengco v. Sandiganbayan, GR NO. 149802, Jan 20, 2006
- $3.37 million (Marcos Jr. v. Republic, G.R. No. 189434 April 25, 2012
- collection of jewelry (Estate of Marcos v. Republic (G.R. No. 213027January 18, 2017)
The cases applied the legal principle “whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount or property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired. (Sections 2 and 6 of Republic Act 1379 )
“Prima facie evidence” as defined by Black’s Law dictionary is “ evidence good and sufficient on its face, which, if unexplained or uncontradicted, is sufficient to sustain a judgment in favor of the issue it supports, but which may be contradicted by other evidence.”
The following facts must be established in order that forfeiture or seizure of the assets may be effected: (1) ownership by the public officer of money or property acquired during his incumbency, whether it be in his name or otherwise, and (2) the extent to which the amount of that money or property exceeds, i. e., is grossly disproportionate to, the legitimate income of the public officer.
In these cases, the legitimate income of the Marcoses had been pegged at USD304,372.43, since they did not file any Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL), as required by law, from which their net worth could be determined.
The Court noted that under the 1935 Constitution, Marcos as President could not receive “any other emolument from the Government or any of its subdivisions and instrumentalities”. Likewise, under the 1973 Constitution, Marcos as President could “not receive during his tenure any other emolument from the Government or any other source”. In fact, his management of businesses, like the administration of foundations to accumulate funds, was expressly prohibited under the 1973 Constitution.
In Republic vs. Sandiganbayan, the Swiss deposits which were transferred to and were deposited in escrow at the Philippine National Bank in the estimated aggregate amount of US$658,175,373.60 as of January 31, 2002, plus interest, were forfeited in favor of Republic.
The Court stressed that the release of the Swiss funds held in escrow is dependent solely on the decision of Philippine courts that said funds belong to the Republic despite the absence of the authenticated translations of the Swiss decisions.
In Yuchengco v. Sandiganbayan, the Court ruled that the 111,415 Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corporation (PTIC) shares being held by Prime Holdings, Inc. (PHI) bore the character of ill-gotten wealth, whether they were in the hands of Marcos or of Cojuangco. It noted that Marcos owned PHI, and that all the incorporators had acted under his direction.
In Marcos Jr. v. Republic, all the assets of Arelma, S.A., an entity created by Marcos Sr., with an estimated aggregate amount of USD 3,369,975 as of 1983, were forfeited in favor of the government. It was purportedly organized for the purpose of hiding ill-gotten wealth.
The New York Supreme Court (Appellate Division) utilized the proceedings before the Philippine courts when it issued its 26 June 2012 in the case Swezey v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (2011 NY Slip Op 05208 [87 AD3d 119] noting “the Philippine forfeiture law that predated the tenure of President Marcos; evidence demonstrating that Marcos looted public coffers to amass a personal fortune worth billions of dollars; findings by the Philippine Supreme Court and Swiss Federal Supreme Court that Marcos stole related assets from the Republic; and, perhaps most critically, the recent determination by the Philippine Supreme Court that Marcos pilfered the money that was deposited in the Arelma brokerage account.”
In Estate of Marcos v. Republic, the pieces of jewelry of the so called “Malacañang Collection” seized from Malacañang after February 25, 1986 and transferred to the Central Bank on March 1, 1986 with an estimated value of US$110,055 (low estimate) to US$153,089 (high estimate) was declared ill gotten wealth.
(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)
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