Sandiganbayan affirms Marcos win in wealth case


    THE Sandiganbayan has denied a government motion seeking a reversal of its August 5, 2019 decision that dismissed an ill-gotten wealth suit against the Marcos family and former top officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the eight-page resolution released last February 13 which affirmed the court’s decision on Civil Case No. 0034 and maintained that the Office of the Solicitor General, counsel for the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), failed to raise new arguments to warrant a reconsideration.

    Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Michael Frederick L. Musngi concurred.

    The Sandiganbayan Second Division reiterated its earlier findings that government lawyers did not provide any proof of the alleged “close association” between the former DBP executives and spouses the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife, former first lady Imelda Marcos, or that there was a conspiracy among them to accumulate ill-gotten wealth.

    Likewise, it underscored the failure of the PCGG-OSG to present in court original documents that would have bolstered its case.

    “The Court admitted all the pieces of evidence offered by the plaintiff and considered the same for determination of the probative value. In the course of the evaluation however, the Court had to discard some documentary evidence for being incompetent and irrelevant,” it said.

    The anti-graft court held that missing originals of key documentary evidence and failure of government witnesses to authenticate their affidavits left the court little choice but to rule in favor of the defendants.

    The Second Division said it is saddened by the fact that “it took more than 30 years before this case is submitted for decision and yet, the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence.”

    The case filed on July 31, 1987 concerns allegations that DBP officials, acting on directions from the Marcoses, extended loan accommodations to various shipping companies that constituted unjust enrichment of Marcos associates.

    PCGG claimed businessman Roberto S. Benedicto took advantage of his influence and connection with the Marcos couple to obtain loans and guarantees in hundreds of millions for his companies Molave Bulk Carriers, Inc, Aklan Bulk Carriers, Inc., Fuga Bulk Carriers, Inc., Coron Bulk Carriers, Inc., and Ecija Bulk Carriers, Inc. which handled freight contracts of sugar, fertilizers and other import cargoes.

    Other than the Marcos couple and Benedicto, also named in the lawsuit were members of DBP Board of Governors Jose R. Tengco Jr., Placido L. Mapa, Rafael Sison, Cesar C. Zalamea, and Don Ferry; and various incorporators and executives of the bulk carriers and officials of other Benedicto companies.

    Aside from recovery of various disputed assets, the PCGG also sought award of moral and exemplary damages totaling P102 billion as well as actual, temperate, and nominal damages in sums left at the court’s discretion.

    The government, however, did not end up empty handed in light of the compromise agreement executed between Benedicto and the PCGG on November 3, 1990 where the businessman ceded various properties to the government including radio and television companies, real estate assets, and shares in various corporations.

    In return, he was granted absolute immunity from suit as well as members of his family, officers and employees of his corporations covering existing and even future investigations by the government.

    According to a list released by the PCGG recently, among the Benedicto assets turned over to the government were the International Broadcasting Corp. (IBC-13) including rights over the franchise, land, relay stations, and provincial and radio stations all worth P3.074 billion, and three parcels of land in Bataan in the name of Piedras Petroleum Corp. with a combined value of P70.016 million.

    Also included were a 6,000 square-meter lot from Banahaw Broadcasting Corp (BBC) – Iligan City (P17.83 million); two lots with a combined area of 5,161 sqm from BBC-Legazpi City (P22.19 million); 5,952 sqm lot from BBC-Naga City (P19.046 million);  BBC-DWAN Radio (P1.362 million); 12,445 shares in Oceanic Wireless Network Inc. (OWNI) (P13.63 million); and 4.16 million shares in Radio Philippine Network Inc. (RPN-9) (P33.29 million).

    Benedicto also agreed to “assign to the government all his rights, interest and/or participations, if any, in Radio Philippines Network (RPN) which operated TV-9, its seven provincial TV stations and seven provincial radio stations, as well as the Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

    The compromise deal was deemed final with an entry of judgment on December 22, 1993.
    Benedicto died in 2000 and his estate filed a motion for execution which was granted by the Sandiganbayan on December 14, 2010.

    As for the Marcoses, the court declared that there was no evidence to hold the Marcos estate or Mrs. Marcos liable due to “total lack of evidence to prove that defendants Ferdinand E. Marcos and Imelda R. Marcos participated in extending loan accommodation; that they appropriated for their own benefit and unjust enrichment income and revenues derived from the operations of RPN-9, IBC-13 and BBC-2; and allowed defendants to hold and launder purloined funds.”

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