Businessman Herminio Disini, a crony of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, has dismissed as “a legal impossibility” the order of the Sandiganbayan that he return $50.6 million in commissions that he supposedly earned for facilitating the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
Disini’s lawyer, Jose Bernas, said his client would seek a reconsideration of the antigraft court’s April 11 ruling which declared that Disini used his close relationship with the Marcoses to secure the BNPP contract for Westinghouse and Burns and Roe in 1974.
Disini fled the country before the collapse of the Marcos regime in 1986 and was said to have taken up residence in Austria.
The court said the testimony of several witnesses showed that the businessman, whose wife Paciencia Escolin was a cousin of then first lady Imelda Marcos, received commissions for closing the $2.3-billion deal with the two US firms.
Bernas said the Sandiganbayan merely based its “return order” on “a photocopy of an unauthenticated tabulation” in ruling that Disini had received huge sums in commissions from the controversial project.
“(T)hat tabulation does not contain any explanation on the purpose for which it was made,” Bernas said in an e-mail statement.
“Disini was ordered to return the commissions despite (the fact that) the Westinghouse contracts were not on record and no proof of amounts of commissions received were offered,” he said.
The lawyer said the commissions that his client received “were paid by Westinghouse and not by the government.”
Bernas also stressed that the contract for the construction of the BNPP was not legally annulled as the Supreme Court had thrown out various petitions that sought to cancel the contract.
He said the Sandiganbayan should have refrained from hearing the allegations of bribery against Disini et al. after the US Federal Court and the Geneva-based International Court of Arbitration dismissed similar complaints filed before them.
He said the foreign courts ruled that “there was no evidence” that Disini, owner of the Herdis Group, had acted as a dummy for the late dictator.
“The Swiss tribunal said the Philippine government failed to prove the alleged bribery in spite (of having) access to information derived from the Swiss government, the Philippine investigation and United States federal court proceedings,” Bernas said, adding:
“(T)he project itself was funded and audited by the US Export Import Bank. (A)ny unusual or irregular commissions or other payments would have been disallowed.”