The Office of the Solicitor General on Wednesday justified the decision of the government to decline the settlement agreement that will allow the distribution of $20-million seized assets of the Marcoses in the United States to martial law victims.
In a statement yesterday, the OSG confirmed that the government has decided to instead pursue its claim to all of the recovered properties of the Marcoses in the cases pending before the Sandiganbayan.
However, the chief state counsel clarified that the decision was approved by the Department of Justice and the Presidential Commission on Good Government and not based on authorization by the government’s legal counsel alone.
The OSG said that all three agencies met to review the said settlement agreement upon order from the Palace.
In fact, the OSG said a case conference was held last March 11 by lawyers from DOJ, PCGG and OSG where the three agencies “unanimously agreed that, in the best interest of the Republic, it will no longer enter into the settlement agreement.”
“PCGG was tasked to inform the New York District Court of the matter through a letter dated March 16, 2019,” the OSG statement said.
The review of the agreement came after the Office of the Executive Secretary issued a memorandum last January 8 approving the request of the PCGG for authority to enter into a settlement agreement of the interpleader case pending at the New York District Court presided by Judge Katherine Failla.
“However, the said Memorandum required that before the PCGG can enter into the settlement agreement, both the OSG and DOJ shall approve its terms,” the OSG said.
In compliance with the requirement, the OSG said it reviewed the terms of the proposed settlement agreement.
“Unfortunately, the terms were found to be grossly disadvantageous to the government and not in accord with existing Philippine laws and jurisprudence. Pursuant to its mandate to protect the interest of the Republic of the Philippines, the OSG issued its disapproval in a letter dated January 23, 2019. Meanwhile, the OSG awaited the position of the DOJ concerning the matter,” the statement explained.
The OSG issued the clarification after it was reported that it did not authorize the settlement agreement.
Acting PCGG chairman Reynold Munsayac said they informed New York district court Judge Katherine Polk Failla that the court failed to secure the authority of the OSG that would allow implementation of the settlement agreement, which would divide the proceeds from the sale of paintings recovered from an aide of former first lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos.
It turned out that the PCGG also opposed the said agreement.
The PCGG earlier entered into negotiations with the camp of the martial law victims, represented by Swift, that won the $2-billion class action suit filed in Hawaii in 1995.
The negotiations involved some $20 million worth of assets seized from former Marcos’ aide Vilma Bautista in New York, including high value paintings.
In the draft agreement, the government was set to receive $4 million while the victims in the class action would get $13.75 million.
A third party, the Golden Buddha Corp. and the estate of Roger Roxas that allegedly discovered the Yamashita treasure, would also get a portion of the proceeds from the sale of some of the paintings.