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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Court rules in favor of Marcoses anew

The Supreme Court has sustained a 2012 decision of the Sandiganbayan dismissing the ill-gotten wealth case against the estate of the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and several alleged cronies, led by business tycoon Lucio Tan.

The ill-gotten wealth case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government covered Tan’s companies which Marcos and then First Lady Imelda allegedly granted concessions to or have interests in.

“It appears that none of the pieces of evidence relied upon by the Republic was successful in establishing the manner by which respondents allegedly acquired ill-gotten wealth. It was not shown, through these pieces of evidence, if and how respondents took undue advantage of their office, authority, influence, connections, or relationship,” the High Court said in an en banc decision written by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda.

“Here, even if we apply the comprehensive definition of ill-gotten wealth, the pieces of evidence relied upon by the Republic failed to establish all its elements. Notably, some of these pieces of evidence are even of doubtful admissibility.”

The Marcos estate was represented by the former First Lady Imelda, son and now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and daughters Imee Marcos and Irene Araneta.

Besides Tan, also named as respondents were his family members and business associates.

Tan’s companies covered by the case include Shareholdings, Inc, Asia Brewery, Allied Bank, Fortune Tobacco, Maranaw Hotels, Virginia Tobacco Redrying Plant, Northern Tobacco Redrying Plant, Foremost Farms, Sipalay Trading, Himmel Industries, Grandspan Development Corp. (Grandspan), Basic Holdings Corp, Progressive Farms, Inc., Manufacturing Services and Trade Corp., Allied Leasing & Finance Corp., Jewel Holdings, Inc., Iris Holdings and Development Corp., and Virgo Holdings and Development Corp.

The PCCG alleged that the sale of the controlling interest of the Development Bank of the Philippines in Century Park Sheraton Hotel (Century Park), owned by Maranaw Hotels and Resorts Corp., to Sipalay Trading Corporation, a company controlled by Tan, has caused losses amounting to millions of pesos to DBP.

The properties that the government was seeking to recover include two aircraft and shares of stocks from the respondent-corporations and Century Park.

In denying the appeal of the PCGG, the High Court ruled that the evidence presented by the agency failed to establish that the assets and properties covered by the complaint were illegally obtained.

Among the pieces of evidence presented by the PCGG in support of its case were Imelda’s amended answer, Tan’s written disclosure, Marcos Jr’s testimony, and voluminous documentary evidence found by the PCGG during their investigations.

The tribunal, however, noted that in Imelda’s amended answer, she merely stated that Marcos Sr. had 60 percent beneficial ownership in Tan’s companies, which beneficial interests were held in trust by the business tycoon and his associates who were stockholders of the said companies.

“There is nothing, however, in said amended answer that would even suggest that undue advantage of office, authority, influence, connections, or relationship was employed to facilitate the acquisition by Marcos of his 60 percent beneficial ownership in respondent Tan’s companies,” the SC said.

On Tan’s written disclosure, the Court said this cannot be admitted as evidence due to the failure of the prosecution to present him as a witness to authenticate the document.

The PCCG relied on the written disclosure to prove the 60-40 business arrangement between Tan and Marcos, including the supposed incorporation of holding companies for the latter’s benefit. It was executed and submitted by Tan in 1986 to the late senator and then PCGG chairman Jovito Salonga during the agency’s investigation of the alleged Marcos-Tan partnership.

“As a rule, before a private document is admitted in evidence, it must be authenticated either by the person who executed it, the person before whom its execution was acknowledged, any person who was present and saw it executed, or who after its execution, saw it and recognized the signatures, or the person to whom the parties to the instruments had previously confessed execution thereof,” the High Court said.

“Here, the Written Disclosure cannot be admitted as evidence of the truth of its contents. The Republic did not present respondent Tan, the one who executed the document, as a witness. As such, respondent Tan was not cross-examined on the statements he made in the Written Disclosure. The hearsay rule excludes evidence that cannot be tested by cross-examination,” it added.

With regard to Marcos Jr.’s testimony relating to his supposed meetings with his father and Tan on the alleged interest of the Marcoses in the latter’s businesses and their supposed 60-40 business arrangement, the Court declared his testimony as hearsay which cannot be used as evidence of the prosecution.

“After due consideration of the foregoing, it is clear that Marcos Jr. does not have personal knowledge of the alleged 60-40 business arrangement or the share transfers between and among the various corporations. It does not appear that he was privy to any of these transactions,” the Supreme Court said.

The SC also upheld the Sandiganbayan’s resolution issued on December 22, 2010, dismissing the ill-gotten wealth case against two of the respondents, namely Don Ferry and Cesar Zalamea, in connection with the Sipalay deal.

The high court also dismissed the PCGG’s petition seeking the reversal of a Sandiganbayan’s resolution denying its motion to admit a third amended complaint which seeks to include Philip Morris, Fortune Tobacco and several other individuals as respondents in the case.

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