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Court clears Marcos, Ongpin in Binondo bank scam

Rappler.com
Sandiganbayan junks P50-B damage suit, pending for 24 years

MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – The Sandiganbayan has junked a P50-B damage suit filed against the late President Ferdinand Marcos, the late Armed Forces chief Fabian Ver, and businessman Roberto Ongpin, over the alleged Binondo Central Bank scam.

“There is no evidence to prove that these defendants received money by way of kickbacks, commission, gifts, or percentages from capitalists of the Binondo Central Bank,” said the 69-page verdict penned by Associate Justice Samuel Martires of the Sandiganbayan 2nd division.

The ruling stems from a 24-year-old case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) against Marcos, Ver, Ongpin, and others.

Ongpin has been embroiled in a controversial loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines from which he got a loan to buy mining shares which he later sold at a huge profit.

Associate Justices Napoleon E. Inoturan and Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, division chairperson, concurred in the decision.

With the dismissal of the case, the court also ordered the lifting and cancellation of sequestration orders previously issued against the properties of all defendants in the case.

In its 1987 complaint, PCGG claimed the Marcos couple ordered Ongpin and Ver to roundup the country’s biggest black market dollar traders in 1984 and organized them into the Binondo Central Bank (BCB).

The commission said under the protection of the Marcos government, the BCB engaged in the buying of US dollars and stashing them abroad.

The Marcos couple, Ongpin and Ver likewise supposedly received protection fees paid by BCB members through “dummies, nominees or agents.”

PCGG said defendant Edna Camcam, then a director of the Equitable Banking Corporation and reportedly a ‘special friend’ of Ver, was the one who provided banking facilities for the scheme.

Ver’s children, Irwin, Rexor, Wyrlo, Helma Ver-Tuason, and Faida Ver-Resureccion were also implicated in the alleged conspiracy along with then Presidential Security Command legal officer Balbino San Diego and lawyer Arturo Pacificador.

Catch-all

Likewise named co-defendants were BCB members Jimmy Chua a.k.a. Chua Hang, Go Pok a.k.a. Tan Guat, Catalino Coo, Raffy Chua, Peter Uy, Benito Peñalosa a.k.a. Chua Se Tat, Yao So a.k.a. Sio Lim, and Wilson Chua a.k.a. Chua Tiong Kian.

But the Sandiganbayan said the complaint failed to even mention specific acts by the defendants other than a making a “catch-all allegation” that they acted “in unlawful concert with one another” by means of “misappropriation and theft of public funds, plunder of the nation’s wealth, extortion, blackmail, bribery, embezzlement and other acts of corruption…”

“How defendants Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Fabian Ver and Roberto Ongpin… ‘abused their power to enrich themselves’ …the complaint does not show. The same absence of allegation exists on how defendants…earned and/or acquired ill-gotten wealth from the management and operation of the Binondo Central Bank, as well as the amount of money that they earned, and the nature or description of the properties that they acquired from their alleged earnings…,” the court pointed out.

Ongpin did not deny that the BCB was organized in 1984 and the court accepted his explanation, supported by the affidavit of then Gen. Gerardo N. Flores, that the group was created simply to stabilize currency trading in the country at the time when dollar hoarding was rampant.

At the same time, the court noted that Ongpin and Ver, acting on orders of President Marcos, provided military security to protect BCB’s operations but specifically to ensure that the buying and selling of US dollars were in accordance to the rates set by the government’s Central Bank.

The same security people made certain only businessmen and authorized individuals were able to buy dollars to stop hoarding.

“The foregoing considered, it is thus evident that the plaintiff failed to adduce evidence to prove its allegations that the defendants amassed ill-gotten wealth,” the graft court said.

In a TV interview last year, Ongpin had said the “Binondo Central Bank” was necessary since basic goods (such as medicine) could not be imported at the time as there was not enough dollars to pay for them. The importers couldnt turn to the formal central bank for help at the time since its reserves were depleted. exporters kept their dollars away from the country as confidence on the Marcos government waned.

Ongpin then worked with the Chinese black market traders, then flew the dollars daily via private plane to Hong Kong. – Rappler.com