SC clears FM heirs of ill-gotten charges

Also absolves in-laws, takes PCGG, SolGen to task

THE Supreme Court has junked the ill-gotten cases against the heirs and in-laws of the late President Ferdinand Marcos due to a lack of evidence, and took the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Solicitor General to task for bungling the job.

The dismissed cases involved the alleged accumulation of P200 billion in ill-gotten wealth and the acquisition of media networks IBC-13, BBC-2 and RPN-9; the alleged use of De Soleil Apparel for dollar salting; and the alleged acquisition and operation of the bus company Pantranco North Express Inc.

The decision by then Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, dated Feb. 8, 2012, was not released to the press. Sereno was named Chief Justice six months later, on Aug. 12, 2012.

Second Division Justices Arturo Brion, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Portugal Perez and Bienvenido Reyes concurred with Sereno’s finding that the prosecutors failed to abide by the “best evidence rule,” putting in question the process used by the PCGG and OSG in the cases.

“Despite having the expansive resources of government, the members of the prosecution did not even bother to provide any reason whatsoever for their failure to present the original documents or the witnesses to support the government’s claims. Even worse was presenting in evidence a photocopy of the TSN (transcript of stenographic notes) of the PCGG proceedings instead of the original, or a certified true copy of the original, which the prosecutors themselves should have had in their custody. Such manner of legal practice deserves the reproof of this Court. We are constrained to call attention to this apparently serious failure to follow a most basic rule in law, given the special circumstances surrounding this case,” the decision read.

While the children of the former president – Imee Marcos-Manotoc, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Irene Marcos-Araneta – were defendants as compulsory heirs, their involvement in the cases was never established, the Court said.

“In fact, they were never mentioned by any of the witnesses presented. Neither did the documentary evidence pinpoint any specific involvement of the Marcos children,” the decision said.

The court also dismissed the case filed against Irene’s husband, businessman Gregorio Araneta III, due to a lack of evidence.

“In the matter of the spouses Irene Marcos and Gregorio Araneta III, the court similarly held that there was no testimonial or documentary evidence that supported petitioner’s allegations against the couple.

Again, petitioner failed to present the original documents that supposedly supported the allegations against them. Instead, it merely presented photocopies of documents that sought to prove how the Marcoses used the Potencianos as dummies in acquiring and operating the bus company Pantranco,” the decision said.

The Supreme Court also said that Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Ferdinand Jr., as executor and defendants in the case, should be protected and given due process.

The two should not be deprived of their right to protect and defend all the properties left by the former President, except if they waive this right in favor of the state, the Court said.

“Since the pending case before the Sandiganbayan survives the death of Ferdinand E. Marcos, it is imperative therefore that the estate be duly represented. The purpose behind this rule is the protection of the right to due process of every party to a litigation who may be affected by the intervening death. The deceased litigant is himself protected, as he continues to be properly represented in the suit through the duly appointed legal representative of his estate. On that note, we take judicial notice of the probate proceedings regarding the will of Ferdinand E. Marcos. In Republic of the Philippines v. Marcos II, we upheld the grant by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of letters testamentary in solidum to Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr and Imelda Romualdez Marcos as executors of the last will and testament of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos,” the Supreme Court said.

“Unless the executors of the Marcos estate or heirs are ready to waive in favor of the state their right to defend or protect the estate or those properties found to be ill-gotten in their possession, control or ownership, then they may not be dropped as defendants in the civil case pending before the Sandiganbayan,” the decision added.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Sandiganbayan decision dated Dec. 5, 2005 that acknowledged the children of the late President as legitimate defendants in the case.

The Supreme Court also called on Malacanang to investigate the process by which prosecution handled the case.

“Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the President so that it may look into the circumstances of this case and determine the liability, if any, of the lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Commission on Good Government in the manner by which this case was handled in the Sandiganbayan,” the Court said.

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