Imelda Marcos seeks more time to comment on foundations issue
The camp of former first lady Imelda Marcos has sought more time to present the final arguments on her 26-year-old graft case, which the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division would have to decide on soon after concluding the trial stage.
The prosecution has submitted its memorandum detailing how Imelda was involved in various foundations in Switzerland.
The foundations were allegedly used to maintain bank accounts containing millions of dollars for the benefit of the Marcos family, even as Imelda and her late husband, President Ferdinand Marcos, declared a lawful income of only $957,487.75 from 1965 to 1985 in their income tax returns.
Sought for comment, Imelda’s lawyer, Robert A.C. Sison, told the Inquirer in a text message that the memorandum summing up her arguments “will be filed very soon.”
Sison had asked the Sandiganbayan to move the Sept. 15 deadline for filing Imelda’s memorandum, citing “the heavy pressure of legal work.”
He was also working in an area in Masbate province with “extremely weak internet connection, which prevents him from researching legal works and jurisprudence.”
“The records of these cases are so voluminous, no doubt. It is extremely a challenge for the undersigned to craft the memorandum for accused Marcos given the fact that he is a solo practitioner and employs no one to do his legal research works,” Sison’s motion read.
The court was supposed to begin deciding on the case once the parties’ memorandums were filed.
Violated 1973 Charter
The Office of the Ombudsman, which recently rested its case, said Imelda’ financial interest in Swiss foundations while serving as a Batasang Pambansa assemblywoman and Metro Manila governor violated the 1973 Constitution.
In a memorandum, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) sought Imelda’s conviction by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on 10 counts of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
This provision prohibits public officials from having financial or pecuniary interest in any businesses or transactions banned by the Constitution.
Each count of graft is typically punishable by at least six years’ imprisonment.
No court testimony
The OSP said it had sufficiently proven Imelda’s involvement with the private foundations to be unlawful, noting that she failed to even testify in open court to refute the evidence or at least deny the allegations.
It added that members of the Batasang Pambansa were prohibited from having direct or indirect interest in transactions involving the government under Article VIII, Section 11 of the 1973 Constitution.
Likewise, members of the Cabinet were not allowed to “participate in the management of any business” under Article IX, Section 8 of the charter.
When the foundations were created, Imelda was a Batasan member representing the National Capital Region from 1978 to 1984.
She was also the minister of human settlements from June 1976 to February 1986 and was concurrent Metro Manila governor.
The submission of the memorandum signals that the 10 criminal cases filed from 1991 to 1995 are about to be decided on, after about 26 years.
The trial stage itself took 17 years—from January 2000 to March 2017.
Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, who served in the administration of President Corazon Aquino, was the main prosecution witness.
From 2000 to 2012, he testified to the authenticity of the voluminous records gathered by Task Force Humongous.
Other prosecution witnesses included the Aquino administration’s Ambassador to Switzerland Luis Ascalon, Marcos’ Central Bank Governor Jaime Laya, Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee Corp. (Philguarantee) Chair Cesar Virata and its president, Victor Macalincag.
Prosecutors said Imelda and her late husband “participated in the management and administration” of Vibur and Avertina Foundations.
Vibur, previously known as Azio Foundation and then Verzo Foundation, was allegedly used as a conduit to funnel $3,597,544 as of Dec. 31, 1991.
Avertina, consolidated from Xandy and Wintrop Foundations, and Charis, Scolari and Valamo Spinus Foundations, had $240,014,084 in its accounts as of Dec. 31, 1989.
According to the memorandum, President Marcos requested the creation of Azio and named himself and the Marcos Foundation as the first and second beneficiaries.
The Marcos family remained beneficial owners of Azio when it became Vibur, and of Avertina.
William Saunders, Jane Ryan
The Marcos spouses also opened an account with Credit Suisse under the names “William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan.” The accounts were transferred to Xandy, which was later consolidated into Avertina.
Similarly, the OSP said Imelda took part in the management and administration of Aguamina Foundation and Banque Paribas.
The funds involved amounted to $80,566,483 as of Aug. 30, 1991, for Aguamina, and $28,191,435.19 for four accounts at Banque Paribas as of Nov. 10, 1978.
At one point, the spouses tried to block access to the bank documents of Aguamina by appealing to the Federal Swiss Supreme Court the order of the cantonal magistrate of Fribourg to grant mutual legal assistance to the Philippines, according to the OSP.
Through Banque Paribas, Stephen Cattaui was able to create several establishments to administer and transfer the Marcos funds, prosecutors said.
After their ouster in 1986, the Marcoses allegedly tried to withdraw their dollar deposits through Michael de Guzman.
The Marcoses also allegedly bought Maler Establishment from Swiss Bank Corp. and used the alias “John Lewis” to administer it.
Imelda herself allegedly engaged investors in the issuance of US dollar treasury notes through the foundation.
Imelda also allegedly established Trinidad Foundation with a capital of SFr 100,000, with her as the first beneficiary during her lifetime, to be succeeded by her children after her death.
Huge amounts of US dollars and ounces of gold were transferred to Trinidad’s accounts, and the foundation had fiduciary deposits, interests and investments in Deutsche marks (Germany’s now-defunct currency).
She also allegedly ordered the creation of Rayby Foundation and took part in its management.
Its capitalization was debited against Trinidad’s account.
Documents showed she was empowered to modify Rayby’s bylaws, appoint its beneficiaries and transfer its powers to a third party.
President Marcos, meanwhile, instructed Avertina to place $2 million at Imelda’s disposal, allowing her to order it to be credited to Palmy Foundation, which she beneficially owned.
The only local company linked to Imelda in the criminal cases was Asian Reliability Company Inc. (Arci).
Prosecutors presented the marginal note penned by Imelda that instructed the central bank to approve Arci’s loan applications for its investments in Dynetics Inc. and divert loan proceeds to cover other ventures in Arci’s revised business plans.
The notes read: “To Gov. Laya, We refer for your approval. Thank you, Imelda Marcos” and “Gov. J. Laya, I highly recommend the approval of this proposal vital to our development program. Thank you, Imelda R. Marcos July 30, 1983.”
Arci’s tendency to consult the Marcoses for business decisions and inform them of profitability and management issues also point to the Marcoses’ alleged ownership of the company.
And, going by Virata’s testimony, President Marcos even intervened to stop Philguarantee from pursuing a case against Arci and its officers Vicente Chuidian and Rosendo Bondoc, even forcing the state corporation to enter into a disadvantageous settlement.
“From the foregoing discussion, the people certainly had successfully discharged its duty of proving the guilt of accused Imelda Romualdez Marcos beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, a verdict of conviction for the aforementioned crimes is sought against the accused,” the prosecution said.
The prosecution panel is composed of Deputy Special Prosecutor Mary Susan S. Guillermo, Prosecution Bureau V director Ma. Christina T. Marallag-Batacan, and Assistant Special Prosecutors Sheri P. Zales and Ryan S. Quilala.