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3rd wealth case vs Marcoses junked

The Sandiganbayan has junked a P267.371 million ill-gotten wealth case against dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his widow, Imelda, and several associates due to insufficient evidence, the third such case against the Marcoses and their cronies dismissed on the same grounds by the antigraft court this year.

In a resolution dated Oct. 14 but made public only on Friday, the court’s Fourth Division said the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) had violated the “best evidence rule,” or Rule 130, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, which mandates that original documents, not just copies, must be presented as evidence.

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The ruling was penned by division chair Associate Justice Alex Quiroz. The two other members of the division, Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, concurred.

The PCGG and the Office of the Solicitor General filed a complaint on July 21, 1987, against Imelda’s former social secretary Fe Gimenez and her husband, Ignacio, and three others for conniving with the Marcoses to “unlawfully acquire, accumulate and misappropriate public funds through theft, extortion, blackmail, bribery, embezzlement and other acts of corruption.”

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The PCGG accused Fe Gimenez of unlawfully transferring millions of dollars in state funds to several accounts in her name in foreign countries and disbursing the money for her and her codefendants’ own use, benefit and enrichment.

Artworks, NY properties

She also allegedly “acted as conduit of the Marcoses” in purchasing expensive artworks and properties in New York.

Her husband allegedly acted as a dummy for the Marcoses in certain companies, such as the defunct Allied Banking Corp.

The defendants argued that most of the pieces of evidence presented by the PCGG, including receipts, tax certificates and affidavits from bank executives, did not have “substantive probative value” because they were “mere photocopies.”

The court agreed, pointing out in its ruling the “critical defects” of the evidence, “considering that no explanation was proffered by the Republic as to why it was unable to present the original copy of these documents.”

It was the third case lost in three successive months this year by the PCGG, which was established in 1987 to recover billions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their associates.

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In August, the Sandiganbayan dismissed a P102-billion forfeiture case against the Marcoses and their late crony Roberto Benedicto. In September, it threw out a P1.052-billion civil suit against the Marcos couple and Rustan’s Commercial Corp. founders Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. and Gliceria Tantoco.

Imee statement

The court also cited insufficiency of evidence in junking both cases.

No PCGG official could be reached for comment.

Sen. Imee Marcos, the dictator’s daughter, was jubilant and thankful over the court’s decision.

“Praise Him! It is said that justice delayed is justice denied, and 34 years have passed. But we are still deeply grateful,” the senator said in a statement.

Those who had fought the dictatorship, however, were angered by the latest legal setback in bringing the Marcoses to justice.

“This is an outrage,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

“It is as if the Sandiganbayan is in overdrive to dismiss all the cases involving the Marcoses and revise history altogether. It is as if they are saying there is a crime but no criminal,” he said in a statement.

Suspect decision

Bayan Muna chair and former Rep. Neri Colmenares, who was tortured and incarcerated during the dictatorship, said the latest antigraft court decision was suspect.

“It is as if the Sandiganbayan is under orders by the Duterte administration to launder the name of the Marcoses so that they could be fully rehabilitated for the next elections,” he said.

The Marcos family supported President Duterte’s candidacy in the 2016 elections.

“Deciding on a historic case on a mere technicality but missing the spirit of accountability entirely is really deplorable and I think that the decision should be questioned,” Colmenares said.

“It seems that the Sandiganbayan is on a roll to exonerate the Marcoses and the Duterte government is just letting them off to the detriment of the Filipino people,” he added.

During his 20 years as President, Marcos and his family and cronies amassed an estimated $10 billion in wealth, according to the PCGG.

Marcos died in exile three years after he was overthrown in 1986. His widow faced hundreds of cases to recover assets believed to have been stashed abroad and in the Philippines.

The government won a victory in 2018 when the Sandiganbayan sentenced Imelda Marcos to 11 years in prison for making illegal bank transfers worth $200 million to Swiss foundations while governor of Metropolitan Manila in the 1970s.

She is out on bail pending an appeal. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO

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TAGS: Marcoses, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Sandiganbayan
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