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Sandigan orders Marcos crony to return properties claimed by gov’t

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Over ill-gotten wealth from country's biggest logging deal

Sandigan orders Marcos crony to return properties claimed by gov’t

/ 04:09 PM January 04, 2016

The Philippine government won its ill-gotten wealth case against a prominent Marcos crony involving the country’s biggest logging concession.

After over two decades, the Sandiganbayan Special Second Division has finally ordered a crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to return to government all properties he acquired through favored timber concessions covering 600,000 hectares of the country’s 14 million hectares of forest cover.

But the anti-graft court denied the Philippine government’s claim to damages. The court also failed to mention the liability of the existing Marcos heirs.

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Sequestered properties

In a decision promulgated Dec. 14, 2015, the division ordered Alfonso Lim Sr., who owns the Taggat Industries, to return to government “all funds and properties acquired through the cancelled TLA (timber license agreement)…”

The real properties include several parcels of land in Batangas; Rizal; Tagaytay; Cagayan; and Paco, Manila worth over P511 million. The said properties have been sequestered by the Sandiganbayan.

But the court said only the properties in Tagaytay; Batangas; and Angono, Rizal, with total estimated value of P378 million, can be considered for compromise settlement.

The court also ordered the return of two sequestered aircrafts–RP-C208 Cessna Centurion II and RP-C333 Cessna Golden Eagle–registered in the name of Taggat Industries. The aircrafts have been grounded since 1994.

While their logbooks have been missing, the Cessna aircrafts now at the Manila Domestic Airport can still be considered for the compromise settlement, the court said.

Meanwhile, the court said the properties in Cagayan and Manila were already sold at a public auction to settle tax liabilities and labor claims. All other sequestered properties, plants, and equipment have also been fully depreciated.

The court also said that all the corporations have zero value in shares of stocks, and that their registrations were revoked.

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Civil case 0030

The amended civil complaint against Lim and Marcos, docketed as Civil Case No. 0030, was filed before the Sandiganbayan in Oct. 1991 by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

Lim is accused of collusion with Marcos and former First Lady (now Ilocos Norte Rep.) Imelda Marcos to obtain several timber concessions beyond the allowable 100,000 hectares of land under the 1973 Constitution.

Lim was accused of holding 533,880 hectares of land under seven corporations, far exceeding the allowable 100,000 hectares of land.

But the court noted that Lim actually had access to 633,880 hectares of forests, because of the wide expanse of forest lands in between Lim’s different timber concessions.

Besides the Taggat Industries, Lim also had timber concessions with the following companies because he had shares in some of these: Pamplona Redwood Veneer Co., Inc., Southern Plywood Corp., Western Cagayan Lumber Co., Inc., Acme Plywood & Veneer Co,, Inc., Veterans Woodworks, Inc., and Sierra Madre Wood Ind., Inc.

Lim was also accused of obtaining a permit to cut down Narra and Amaciga trees for export, upon the authorization of former President Marcos,  in violation of an existing ban on the cutting and export of these trees.

Government accused Lim of “taking undue advantage of their relationship, influence, and connection with (the Marcoses)… to unjustly enrich themselves (from timber concessions and management contracts) at the expense of the Republic and the Filipino people.”

Rape of Philippine forest

The anti-graft court noted the Ministry of Natural Resources findings in 1986 against Lim Sr., as well as a 2009 Supreme Court decision against the estate of Lim, in its order in favor of government.

“On the basis of these decisions, this Court finds that the Republic has sufficiently proven that defendant Alfonso Lim Sr. had indeed acquired Timber License Agreements far in excess of that allowed by the 1973 Constitution … It is only inevitable that the action for reconveyance and reversion be granted,” the court said in its 35-page decision.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan and concurred by Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Oscar Herrera Jr.

The court cited the Ministry of Natural Resources report under then Minister Ernesto Maceda.

The 1986 report said that Lim, when he took over the Veterans Woodworks, Sierra Madre Industries, and Tropical Philippines Wood Industries under the blessing of Marcos, “effectively increased the total hectarage under his management and control to 533,880 hectares, unequalled and unprecedented in Philippine Natural Resources history.”

The court also cited the Supreme Court’s decision saying that “so influential was Lim Sr. that he and Taggat and other sister companies received certain timber-related benefits without the knowledge, let alone approval, of the Minister of Natural Resources.”

“Lim Sir. doubtless utilized to the hilt his closeness to the Marcoses to amass what may prima facie be considered as illegal wealth,” the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court also found it “unfair, unacceptable and unconstitutional by any standard… for one Filipino out of 55 million to own, operate… more than 600,000 hectares out of a total forest land of 14 million.”

No damages, liability from Marcos heirs

However, the court said government failed to prove that it is entitled to damages. It did not elaborate.

The court also failed to mention the civil liability of Marcos’ widow Imelda and their children Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, and Irene Marcos-Araneta.

“As regards to the Marcoses, we take note of the General Agreement and the Supplemental Agreement, both dated 28 December 1993, the latter dated 21 July 1994 of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to PCGG Chairman Gunigundo Magtanggol and the authority conferred by then President Fidel V. Ramos to the PCGG chairman relative to the compromise settlements with Imelda R. Marcos and/or the children of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos,” the court said.

Lim Sr. passed away Feb. 11, 1995. The principal accused was then substituted by the administrator of his estate, Ruthie Lim-Santiago.

The court also dismissed the case against former Minister of Natural Resources Teodoro Peña due to lack of evidence that he participated in the grant of favored timber concessions.

Civil Case 0030 is just one of 300 civil cases involving ill-gotten wealth lodged against the Marcos heirs and their cronies.

Incumbent Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos also faces 10 criminal charges of graft for allegedly having pecuniary interests in various foundations set up by her and her husband to accumulate ill-gotten wealth. Some of these foundations have Swiss bank accounts, where the Marcos couple allegedly stowed away millions of stolen taxpayers’ money.

After two decades of martial rule, Imelda’s husband and the dictator Marcos was ousted in a peaceful people’s uprising in 1986. Their son Senator Bongbong Marcos is gunning for the vice presidency in 2016.

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TAGS: Alfonso Lim Sr, concession, crony, Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Marcos, Property, Sandigan, Sandiganbayan, timber
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