Lumber workers win decades-long case against Marcos ‘crony’

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Lumber workers win decades-long case against Marcos ‘crony’


The Sandiganbayan rules that Diatagon Labor Federation is the rightful owner of 60% of Lianga Bay Logging, which was originally controlled by businessmen allegedly favored by Marcos

MANILA, Philippines – After more than 35 years, employees of Lianga Bay Logging Company finally notched a victory against a close associate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. This came after the Sandiganbayan ruled in favor of their claim to 60% of the company, backwages, unpaid benefits, and millions in damages.

It’s been more than three decades since Diatagon Labor Federation (DLF), the worker’s union of Mindanao-based Lianga Bay Logging, first acted on their complaint. On February 3, 1988, DLF joined as an intervenor in the ill-gotten wealth case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) the year before.

The respondents named in the case were Peter Sabido, son of alleged Marcos “crony” Roberto Sabido; his fellow business partners Luis Yulo, Roberto Benedicto, and Nicolas Dehesa; the late dictator, former President Marcos, and his widow, former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Only on July 18, 2023 did the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division rule that Sabido was indeed liable for the claims of DLF, which include: 

  • a 60% stake in the company that includes “all its assets, resources, and intangibles”
  • unpaid retirement benefits, separation pay, insurance premiums, cooperative shares, unpaid salaries, backwages, accrued savings, vacation and sick leaves, and bonuses
  • P1 million in moral damages, and P1 million in exemplary damages 
  • P100,000 as cost of the suit

On February 21, 2023, the court had dismissed the PCGG’s case, saying they failed to prove that the assets in question were acquired by Sabido through exploiting his relationship with the Marcoses. “This court finds that the plaintiff failed to prove by preponderant evidence that the properties alleged in the complaint are ill-gotten and/or was beneficially owned and controlled by former President Marcos and his family,” it said.

The PCGG originally argued that Sabido’s companies were benefiting from favorable loans given by state lenders because of his close ties with the Marcoses. Among the loans in question were:

  • $5.76 million and $6 million foreign currency loans and a direct loan for $8.78 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines to Phil-Asia, all given on December 7, 1979
  • four promissory notes amounting to $11.76 million, $8.53 million, $145,420, and $110,200 to Phil-Asia, all dated May 13, 1980
  • a P38.52 million interest-free loan payable over 28 years for Philippine Integrated Meat Corp. (Pimeco) on November 2, 1975
  • another P93.7 million interest-free loan payable over 28 years for Pimeco dated July 9, 1981

Though the Sandiganbayan dismissed the PCGG’s claims, the DLF asserted that its intervention is a different story. DLF argued that Sabido’s stake in the logging company should be considered “ill-gotten wealth,” since the defendant’s late father, Roberto Sabido, was a “crony of the former president.”

The workers’ union argued that it should be the rightful owner of the company, presenting a Stock Sale Agreement dated July 2, 1974 that showed the Georgia-Pacific International Corp (GPIC) sold 35,432 shares – 60% of the logging company – to “employees and workers.”

Another document dated November 17, 1986, this time from the Fiscal Committee of Lianga Bay Logging, stated that the union owned 34,647 shares, or 57.5% of the company.

Finally, the union presented a letter dated September 18, 1986 from GPIC itself that confirmed the sale of shares to the workers and the receipt of payment, noting that “all obligations were fulfilled.”

“After meticulous examination of all the above evidence submitted by Intervenor DLF, the Court is convinced that the latter is the beneficial and rightful owner of the 34,647 or 60% shareholdings of LBLCI (Lianga Bay Logging),” the Sandiganbayan ruled.

Defendant Sabido didn’t refute the claim of the union. By not presenting any evidence to rebut their claims, the court said that the “allegations and claims, not being denied by the other parties, are deemed admitted.”

The total amount of benefits owed will still be determined by the workers’ union, along with Lianga Bay Logging, PCGG, and the Office of the Solicitor General. It will also be evaluated by a third-party assessor chosen by all parties and subject to the final approval of the Sandiganbayan.

Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega penned the decision with concurrences from Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac. –

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