The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its decision that ordered associates of former President Ferdinand Marcos to return assets that they amassed off their shares in Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. to the government for being ill-gotten.
In a 45-page resolution on Civil Case 0009 dated September 22 on motion for partial reconsideration filed by the heirs of Jose Africa, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division said “there is preponderance of evidence that the ETPI shares of the defendant-movants substituted by the heirs of Africa, of Polygon, and the individual shareholders are ill-gotten wealth of defendant Ferdinand Marcos.”
Civil Case 0009 involves the ETPI shares of defendants Africa, Manuel Nieto Jr. acquired on June 10, 1974; as well as those of Polygon Investors and Managers, Inc.; and Aerocom Investors and Managers, Inc., namely: Victor Africa, Lourdes Africa, Natalie Africa, Jose Enrique Africa, Paul Delfin Africa, Rosario Songco, Raquel Dinglasari, Manuel Nieto III, Ramon Nieto, Victoria Legarda, Ma. Rita de los Reyes, Rosario Arellano, Angela Lobregat, Benito Nieto, Carlos Nieto, Carmen Tuazon and Rafael Valdes.
The assets were transferred to them by defendant Jose Africa, the court said.
“As the Republic correctly avers, ill-gotten wealth includes the properties and assets subject of this case considering that they have been acquired by defendants in unlawful concert with one another, resulting in their unjust enrichment duringFerdinand Marcos’s 20-year rule. Defendants, in unlawful concert with each other, engaged in devices, schemes and strategies for their mutual benefit and unjust enrichment,” the resolution partly read.
Citing three Supreme Court rulings on ill-gotten wealth cases, the Sandiganbayan said that an asset can also be deemed as ill-gotten if it was acquired by a public official “by taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence resulting in unjust enrichment of the ostensible owner irrespective of its source or origin.”
“To limit the coverage of the source of ill-gotten wealth exclusively to public funds or property will render the other means or schemes of acquiring ill-gotten wealth completely nugatory and thereby unduly frustrate the legitimate efforts of the State to recover unlawfully acquired wealth,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan also said that Jose Africa committed a “blatant abuse” of his right when he willingly and knowingly acted as dummy of Marcos in acquiring 60 percent of the shares of stock in the ETPI “to the prejudice of the Filipino people. The said act manifests bad faith on the part of defendant Africa.”
“This constituted a blatant abuse of right which renders him jointly liable for the return of the assets illegally acquired by defendant Marcos, through his knowing participation.”
However, the court partially granted the Africas’ partial appeal by deleting a provision in its December 2019 decision ordering the substituted heirs of Africa and Nieto to jointly pay P1 million worth of exemplary damages to the government.