Gov't loses bid to revoke 2009 compromise deal with Sabido

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has rejected a government motion seeking the nullification of the December 11, 2009 compromise agreement that named businessman Peter Sabido as the principal shareholder of the Philippine Integrated Meat Corporation (Pimeco).

Sabido, an alleged close associate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had asked the Sandiganbayan last February to junk the government motion.

In a 14-page resolution issued last Tuesday, April 12, the anti-graft court held the government is already bound by the commitment made in 2009 by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under former chairman Camilo Sabio, despite the claim of the current PCGG leadership that the agreement was a "midnight deal" entered into by the Arroyo administration.

"The compromise agreement was the result of a long drawn out process of negotiation with each party trying to come out as best as it could. We hold that the plaintiff (Republic of the Philippines) is in estoppel to question the validity of the herein Compromise Agreement since it had already received benefits thereunder," the Sandiganbayan resolution read.

Associate Justice and Fifth Division chairman Roland Jurado penned the ruling. Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega concurred.

The court noted that the PCGG was even assisted by the Office of the Solicitor General when it joined Pimeco and Sabido in seeking approval of the compromise agreement on March 24, 2010.

'Deal was disadvantageous'

The PCGG under the Aquino administration alleged that the deal was disadvantageous because based on the commission's records, Pimeco is wholly owned by the state, after two Marcos associates, Roberto Benedicto and Jose Yao Campos, surrendered their stakes in Pimeco in favor of the government.

But under the 2009 deal, the Pimeco shares of the sequestered Independent Realty Corporation (IRC) were acquired by the SM Group's Consolidated Prime Development Corporation (CPDC) for P10.909 million, while Sabido received P20 million for his share.

Based on the memorandum of agreement, the government received the sum of P89.09 million in consideration of its consent to the said compromise agreement.

The PCGG said its former officials acted with questionable haste, noting that negotiation and approval took only 4 months.

It said that upon the approval of the compromise deal, SM Group's CPDC was able to acquire controlling interest in Pimeco, which in turn gave it an opportunity to negotiate with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Meat Packing Corporation of the Philippines (MPCP), to buy the latter's 12.3-hectare property in Pasig City for P1.1 billion.

The court, however, said ownership of the disputed assets was still in doubt when the agreement was submitted, and government avoided a protracted litigation by seeking a middle ground.

"It is undisputable that the parties entered into a compromise agreement, defined as a contact whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Essentially, it is a contract perfected by mere consent," the court said. – Rappler.com