Gov’t wins more than P1B in damages against Marcos crony over Bataan nuke plant
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has ordered a crony of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos to pay the government more than P1-billion in damages for brokering the $2.2 billion deal to build the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) with Westinghouse Electric Corp.
The plant was never finished and became one of several costly white elephants of the Marcos regime. But payments for the loan incurred by the Philippines for the mothballed project continued until it was fully paid in 2007.
Protests hounded the BNPP project and experts warned of a nuclear disaster because of safety issues, including the plant’s location in an area sitting on an active earthquake fault.
But the refusal of the late President Corazon Aquino to renege on bad loans when she took power in 1986 scuttled efforts to have the BNPP loan written off.
The high court, voting 12-0 with two inhibitions, ruled that the late Herminio Disini was liable for “exerting undue influence in the awarding of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) project to Westinghouse Electrical Corp. in 1974.”
Disini, who founded the Herdis Group of Companies, died in 2014 at the age of 78.
In 1987, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed a complaint at the Sandiganbayan for restitution and damages against Disini, Marcos, and former first lady Imelda Marcos.
The PCGG claimed that Disini acted on behalf of the Marcoses as “special sales representative” to ensure that Westinghouse became the “main contractor for the BNPP project.” For this, Disini received 3 percent of the contract price as commission, the court ruled.
In 2012, the Sandiganbayan ruled that Disini was liable and received at least $50 million in commissions from Westinghouse. The anti-graft court, however, cleared the Marcoses for lack of evidence.
The anti-graft court said while the Marcoses have a “personal financial interest” in the transaction, the government failed to present evidence that they received any commission from the deal.
The Sandiganbayan said the commission that Disini received was ill-gotten and should be returned to the government with interest until fully paid.
In the ruling made public on Tuesday (June 15), the high court said the Sandiganbayan erred in relying on a piece of photocopied document which was not substantiated as secondary evidence and which purportedly showed that Disini received $50 million in commission.
But still, the high court said: “The totality of the testimonial and documentary evidence of the government proved that Disini had unduly enriched himself at the expense of the people and the republic.”
“The court held Disini liable for exerting undue influence in the awarding of the BNPP project by taking advantage of his close association with former President Ferdinand Marcos,” the SC said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando.
Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier took no part in the proceedings.
“They had lawyered for the PCGG in the past when they were still with the Office of the Solicitor General,” said lawyer Brian Keith Hosaka, SC public information chief and spokesperson.
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