Dismissal of P267M wealth case vs Marcoses, cronies affirmed

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    LAWYERS from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) have failed to persuade the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to set aside its October 14, 2019 decision that junked the 33-year old ill-gotten wealth case slapped against the late president Ferdinand Marcos, former first lady Imelda Marcos, and spouses Fe Roa and Ignacio Gimenez.

    Associate Justices Alex L. Quiroz penned the eight-page resolution dated January 23, 2020 that denied the government’s appeal. Associate Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega and Reynaldo P. Cruz concurred. (Cruz died of complications of pneumonia last February 21.)

    Filed in 1987 by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Civil Case No. 0007 alleged that the Gimenezes amassed millions of pesos in unexplained assets and stashed these in bank accounts overseas, and acting as dummies of the Marcos couple in several corporations.

    Based on a listing of active government cases previously released by the PCGG, the case involves P267 million in various assets that the State is petitioning the court to forfeit in its favor.

    However, in its assailed decision, the anti-graft court held that the OSG and the PCGG failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of its allegations, noting that the bulk of the documentary exhibits that were presented during the trial were mere photocopies.

    While there were documents that were offered as certified true copies, the defendants challenged their admissibility based only on the testimony of the PCGG records custodian that these were gathered “as part of the investigations.”

    In its motion for reconsideration, the OSG-PCGG argued that the court erred in granting the demurrers to evidence of spouses Gimenez.

    It likewise asked the court to “take a second look on the nature, character, and probative weight of the documentary evidence” claiming many were authenticated true copies of the originals.

    “The Court is not persuaded… pieces of evidence that were collected by the PCGG in the course of its investigation of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth remain private documents and do not become part of public records,” the Sandiganbayan pointed out.

    Since the majority of the documents offered did not attain the status of certified public records, the court noted that they remain mere photocopies that cannot be given evidentiary weight as they violate the “best evidence rule.”

    “Absent proof that the originals of these photocopied exhibits have been lost, destroyed or cannot be produced in court, the same must be disregarded for having no probative value,” the court ruled.