The Sandiganbayan has dismissed another case against the Marcoses and their associates, this time the case involving alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to P1.052 billion.
In a decision dated Sept. 25 but made available to the media only on Tuesday, the anti-graft court’s Second Division dismissed for insufficiency of evidence the complaint that Bienvenido Tantoco and his other relatives, acted as a dummy of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family in acquiring expensive assets.
The Tantocos own the Rustan’s stores that sell high-end luxury merchandise.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government charged the Tantocos with an expanded complaint for reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution, and damages for allegedly acquiring the franchise to operate duty-free shops that were meant to conceal the ownership of the alleged illegally obtained assets during the Marcos administration.
“The plaintiff [PCGG] alleged that the defendants managed to secure presidential approval for them to operate and manage exclusively duty-free shops and to pay only a minimum franchise tax of 7 percent,” the court said, citing the prosecution’s claims.
Under the Tantocos’ deal with the government during the Marcos administration, the franchise tax levied on the duty-free shops was used by the Nutrition Center of the Philippines, whose chairman was then First Lady Imelda Marcos and the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation headed by Bienvenido Tantoco Jr.
However, the PCGG claimed that only 5 percent went to the government while the remaining 5 percent “became defendant Imelda Marcos’ source of petty cash.”
In addition, the PCGG enumerated some of the alleged shares of the Tantocos in major companies in its complaint.
The Second Division of the Sandiganbayan, however, determined that the documents and witnesses presented by the prosecutors did not prove that there was conspiracy between the Marcoses and the Tantocos.
“Evidently, the plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants [Tantocos] by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” Sandiganbayan ruled.
“The alleged participation of the defendants in securing the issuance of the presidential decree was not established. Moreover, the claim that 5 percent of the franchise tax went to defendant Imelda Marcos has no evidentiary support.”
Despite the voluminous transactions and properties enumerated in the case, government lawyers presented only four witnesses and 11 documents that were admitted by the court.
Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi wrote the decision.
Malacañang on Tuesday said the government should still go after the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, following the latest dismissal.
“As long as it’s ill-gotten, there should be no question about it. It should be a policy of all governments to run after ill-gotten wealth,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.
Panelo said the court will always decide on a case based on evidence.
“Even if you are the best lawyer, but if you lack evidence, nothing. What matters in court is the evidence,” he said.
“If you lack evidence and the court feels you have not proven your case, your case will be dismissed,” he added.
He also said that President Rodrigo Duterte will not interfere with Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s decision on the poll protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Panelo said the Chief Executive will just enforce the law.