Court orders Marcos crony to return $50-M

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The Sandiganbayan orders Herminio Disini to return US$50-M to gov't in relation to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan’s first division on Wednesday, April 11, ordered businessman and Marcos associate Herminio Disini to return to the Philippine government the sum of $50,562,500 he received as commissions from contractors of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant from 1976 until the project’s completion in 1984.
In a 52-page decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos, the graft court declared that the amount paid as commissions to Disini constitutes ill-gotten wealth as defined under paragraphs 2 and 6 of the charter of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
“The evidence presented by the Republic proves that Disini used his influence and close relationship with President (Ferdinand) Marcos to obtain and amass large amounts of money, which he subsequently stored in various accounts, among which were those in Swiss accounts…,” the Sandiganbayan declared.
Associate Justices Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and Efren N. dela Cruz, division chairman, concurred.
The amount to be collected from Disini could grow substantially as the ruling required that the government may charge the defendant “with interest until fully paid.”
Crucial testimonies

According to the Sandiganbayan, while documentary evidence was lacking against Disini, Marcos and the latter’ wife, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, the testimonies of PCGG witnesses Rodolfo Jacob, Angelo Manahan, Rafael Sison and Jesus Vergara were, by themselves, enough to swing the verdict in favor of the government.

Jacob was the president of the Herdis (HERminio DISini) Group of Companies in 1975 who testified that Disini brokered the BNPP deal so that Westinghouse Electric Corp. will be awarded the contract to build the nuclear power plant while Burns and Roe was awarded the engineering and design aspect.
Sison was a former member of the Board of Governors of the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines. He told the court that DBP extended guarantees to loans drawn by Disini’s firms supposedly on instructions by Marcos.
Vergara was a former representative of Westinghouse who introduced Disini to the contractor.
Manahan, former vice president of Herdis Group, executed an affidavit dated January 26, 1989 detailing close relationships between Marcos and Disini.
Despite these, the Sandiganbayan held that there is insufficient proof that the Marcos family also profited from Disini’s actions even as it affirmed government evidence showing close ties between the two men.

Marcos link
“Marcos’ participation in the Westinghouse transaction was driven by his own interest in the matter. It would not be stretching one’s imagination too much to assume that they hoped to profit from the deal. However, there is no direct evidence on record that purports to show that the late President (Marcos) or his wife, Imelda, in fact, actually received any part of these commissions,” the court pointed out.
The one piece of evidence that could have established the Marcos link to the said ill-acquired wealth was the affidavit of lawyer Jesus Disini which however was rendered inadmissible by the Supreme Court.
This was after the High Court affirmed Jesus Disini’s stand that he cannot be compelled to testify in local courts against his cousin, Herminio, since his immunity agreement with the PCGG only required him to testify in a separate court case in the United States. –

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