Sandiganbayan dismisses forfeiture cases vs Marcos brothers-in-law
MANILA, Philippines – Citing insufficient evidence, the Sandiganbayan First Division on Wednesday, August 24, dismissed a 29-year-old ill-gotten wealth case against former Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez and Armando and Vilma Romualdez.
The Sandiganbayan, in a 76-page decision released August 15, granted demurrers to evidence filed by the 3 defendants in Civil Case Number 0019. Associate Justice and First Division chairman Efren de la Cruz wrote the ruling, while Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega concurred.
Alfredo and Armando Romualdez are brothers-in-law of the late former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Additional defendants in this case are Marcos himself, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Nelia Gonzales, and Ricardo Quintos.
The case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on July 27, 1987, sought the forfeiture of 67 parcels of land in the provinces of Isabela, Camarines Sur, Occidental Mindoro, Masbate, as well as in La Vista subdivision in Quezon City.
The PCGG also sought to have the following forfeited in favor of the government: a fleet of heavy equipment vehicles, a helicopter, and 6 airplanes; stocks in 6 private corporations and bank deposits; and 500 heads of imported breeding cattle and a racehorse.
Government lawyers claimed the defendants used a number of companies to acquire leveraged loans from the government. These include Golden Country Farms Incorporated, Imperial Livestock Industries Incorporated, Isabela Gas and Power Development Corporation, Highway Builders Incorporated, Maconacon Airways Incorporated, and Dipudo Industries Incorporated.
The Sandiganbayan, however, dismissed the case, saying the government failed to prove the sequestered properties were ill-gotten wealth. This was despite the presentation of 25 witnesses and 400 documentary exhibits over 29 years.
The PCGG's case, the Sandiganbayan noted, relied on documentary evidence, though most of the presented evidence during the trial were photocopies which could not be given probative weight as the existence of the originals was never established.
Said the court: “The Republic failed to support the acceptability of its secondary evidence. It proceeded with the presentation and identification of photocopied documents by their custodians, offered and submitted them in evidence, without a clear explanation on the whereabouts of their originals.”
When government lawyers cited the testimony of records custodians – who attested to the due turnover of the questioned documents – the Sandiganbayan also said none of the witnesses for the State had personal knowledge of the due execution or even the contents of the said documents.
“Their competence is limited only to the physical possession of the documents, and their custodians did not even positively declare that their originals had come to their hands at one time or another,” the court also said. – Rappler.com