MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A division of the Philippine anti-graft court on Monday, January 4, ordered the Marcoses and the Lim family that owns Taggat Industries to return all the properties claimed by government.
The Sandiganbayan Second Division decided Civil Case Number 0030 that the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed in 1987, a year after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.
The original defendants in the 28-year-old case were Alfonso Lim Sr (who died in 2002), Alfonso Lim Jr, Marcos-time Environment Minister Teodoro Peña, Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos, and several corporations.
The Marcoses' 3 children – incumbent Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, and Irene Marcos-Araneta – were also named substitute defendants through a Sandiganbayan order in 1991.
Among the properties sequestered by the PCGG and awarded by the Sandiganbayan division in favor of the state are vast tracts of land in Cagayan, Manila, Tagaytay, Batangas, and Rizal. In 2006, they had a total appraised value of P511.12 million.
Also awarded to the state are two Cessna planes that had been grounded since 1994, a sea vessel owned by Sierra Madre Wood Industries Incorporated, and various assets in the name of Alfonso D. Lim.
A Newsbreak report in 2005 says Lim Sr was a close friend of Marcos. He claimed ownership of Fuga Island, a 10,000-hectare property in Aparri, Cagayan, after World War II and also owned the defunct Pamplona Redwood Veneer Incorporated and Taggat Industries. These logging companies operated in western Cagayan and the Cordilleras in the 1950s up to the time the government imposed a moratorium on commercial logging early in the 1990s.
A report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dated November 20, 1986 also stated that Lim simultaneously held, operated, and managed 7 separate timber concessions with a total area of 533,880 hectares.
With the “access areas” between Lim’s timber operations taken into account, the DENR report said he effectively held 633,800 hectares of forest land. Back then, the maximum allowable concession area for a timber license was only 100,000 hectares.
“For one Filipino out of 55 million to own, operate or in one form or another be financially interested in more than 600,000 hectares out of a total forest land of 14 million hectares is certainly unfair, unacceptable, and unconstitutional by any standard," said the Sandiganbayan decision, quoting the DENR report.
“So influential was Lim Sr that he and Taggat and sister companies received certain timber-related benefits without the knowledge, let alone approval, of the MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources]."
While the Sandiganbayan ordered the return of all properties claimed by government, it dismissed the state's claim for damages for lack of proof.
Former Minister Peña was absolved of any liability due to lack of evidence.
The 35-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan. Associate justices Teresita Diaz Baldos and Oscar Herrera Jr concurred. – Rappler.com