Sandiganbayan allows plea in Marcos wealth case

    77

    THE government dodged what could have been a blunder on the part of the Office of the Solicitor General after the Sandiganbayan Second Division reversed its earlier resolution denying its motion for reconsideration on the dismissal of a Marcos ill-gotten wealth case.

    In a five-page resolution dated November 6, 2019, the anti-graft court granted the government motion to be allowed to appeal the August 5, 2019 Decision that dismissed Civil Case N. 0034, a petition for the recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and several other defendants filed 32 years earlier.

    The most recent ruling effectively set aside the court’s September 13, 2019 resolution that threw out the government appeal for failure to observe court procedures.

    Lawyers of the OSG, who act as counsel for the Presidential Commission on Good Government, failed to include a notice of hearing when they filed their motion for reconsideration last August 27 leaving the Sandiganbayan no option but to deny it due course. The court pointed out that the OSG motion did not comply with Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court requiring that all motions must specify the time and date of hearing and that the other party must have been notified three days before such date.

    Associate Justices Lorifel Lacap Pahimna, Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Michael Frederick L. Musngi underscored that the Supreme Court had declared that non-compliance with such requirements “renders the motion fatally defective, equivalent to a useless scrap of paper.”
    However, the court opted to exercise liberality noting that the lapse on the part of the OSG did not prejudice the defendants.

    “Although the inadvertence of the plaintiff’s counsel is not a compelling or sufficient reason to relax the rule, the Court is of the view that the defendants’ right to due process will not be impinged should the court act on the earlier motion,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    The case filed in 1987 alleged that businessman Roberto S. Benedicto took advantage of his influence and connection with the Marcos couple to obtain loans and guarantees in the 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. that 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.

    The PCGG sought payment of moral and exemplary damages totaling P102 billion as well as actual, temperate, and nominal damages in sums left at the court’s discretion.

    On November 3, 1990, Benedicto entered into a compromise agreement with the PCGG wherein, in exchange for immunity from suit to him and members of his family, he ceded various properties to the government including radio and television companies, real estate assets, and shares in various corporations.

    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 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).

    He 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.

    The government is seeking reversal of the Sandiganbayan’s finding that there was no evidence to hold the Marcoses liable for any of the causes of action alleged in the complaint.