Sandiganbayan junks ill-gotten wealth case vs Marcoses, ex-energy czar Velasco
MANILA, Philippines – Ending 24 years of litigation, the Sandiganbayan has dismissed for lack of evidence a civil suit seeking the recovery of some P3 million allegedly ill-gotten by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, his late energy “czar” Geronimo Velasco and several corporations allegedly used as fronts to steal state funds.
In a 78-page decision promulgated June 16, the Sandiganbayan First Division said the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) failed to prove that Velasco, through his close ties with the Marcoses, had used his position to divert public funds to his private corporations.
In the same breath, the anti-graft court also dismissed a counter-suit the defendants had filed against the PCGG seeking moral damages, saying that the commission “cannot be liable” for carrying out its mandate.
“…[J]udgement is hereby rendered dismissing the case against all the defendants herein for failure of the plaintiff to prove by preponderance of evidence the causes of action against the defendants with respect to ill-gotten wealth,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos and concurred in by Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Efren de la Cruz, division chair.
In charges originally filed in July 1987 and amended several times over two decades, the PCGG accused Velasco, president of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Co., of colluding with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos to divert funds to private corporations he owned and controlled.
Also named respondents were Alfredo de Borja and Epifanio Verano, both alleged “agents” of Velasco, and private firms in which he was said to have a controlling interest, among them, Gervel Inc., Telin Development Corp., Republic Glass Corp., Nobel (Phils.) Inc. and ACI Philippines.
The PCGG alleged that Velasco “acquired assets grossly disproportional to his salaries and other lawfully acquired property,” placing his net worth at P43.63 million during his time in government from December 1973 to February 1986, when Marcos was ousted.
He was Marcos’ energy minister and died of a heart ailment in the United States in July 2007.
The PCGG also questioned Velasco’s purchase of the oil tankers M/T Philippine Hero for $5.356 million and M/T Sultan Kudarat for Y7.35 million, “under terms and conditions” disadvantageous to the state.
It also accused Velasco of receiving “improper payments such as bribes, kickbacks or commissions” when he granted charters to oil tankers as PNOC head.
The Sandiganbayan, however, found the PCGG wanting in its prosecution, noting that the evidence linking Velasco to the Marcoses was weak.
There was “a complete vacuum of evidence” to prove any conspiracy between the former president and the energy minister, the court said.
“We cannot equate appointment to a Cabinet position with being a close associate, to the point of categorically stating that such professional relationship was used in concert with other schemes and stratagems for the procurement of ill-gotten wealth.”
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