Marcos ill-gotten wealth

Sandiganbayan dilutes Marcoses’ 2019 win: They’ll keep only 4 properties

Lian Buan
Sandiganbayan dilutes Marcoses’ 2019 win: They’ll keep only 4 properties

FIRST FAMILY, AGAIN. Former first lady Imelda Marcos joins son, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s oath-taking ceremony, at the National Museum of Fine Arts on June 30, 2022.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

The original ruling from 2019 committed an error in making a 'sweeping dismissal' of the case, and clarifies three years later that most of the ill-gotten wealth has been recovered

MANILA, Philippines – In a recent 12-page resolution, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan diluted what appeared to be a huge P200-billion win for the Marcoses in 2019, and clarified that the first family recovered only four properties: three in Ilocos Norte and one in Manila.

The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division promulgated the resolution on July 22 listing four properties under the full control of the Marcoses and denying the government’s claims on them.

The original ruling from 2019 committed an error in making a “sweeping dismissal” of the case, and clarified three years later that most of the ill-gotten wealth had been recovered.

The ponente of the July 22 resolution is Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, whom President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had appointed chairperson of the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) a day after the resolution was promulgated – July 23.

Quiroz said he was going to file for optional retirement.

What happened in this case?

The case involved is Civil Case No. 0002, which seeks to return to the national treasury P200-billion worth of ill-gotten wealth, made up of bank deposits, real properties, stocks and paintings.

On December 16, 2019, the Fourth Division junked the complaint, which appeared at the time as one of the biggest wins for the Marcoses because of the sheer amount involved.

Quiroz also penned that ruling, saying that evidence was not sufficient to order the return of the assets.

“The Court acknowledges the atrocities committed during the Martial Law under the Marcos regime and the plunder committed on the country’s resources. However, absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten by the Marcoses, the Court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury,” said the ruling, which was concurred in by Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega and Maryann Corpus Mañalac.

However, Mañalac wrote a separate opinion saying she was only concurring in the result which was to junk the case in itself.

Mañalac said that Quiroz making “a sweeping dismissal of the entire complaint on the bases propounded in the ponencia is not warranted.” Mañalac pointed out that many of the properties included in the P200 billion complaint had already been recovered.

In the opinion, the Justice even said “if all these financial transactions were lawful and legitimate, one wonders why the former President had to use dummies and trustees in the acquisition of assets and properties here and overseas.”

She also found the Marcoses’ claim about the late dictator owning gold bars “almost too improbable for a reasonable person to believe in.” It was Constante Rubio who made the claim that the elder Marcos got wealthy because of trading “precious metals,” but the Marcoses, including President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., attached his testimony to their own claim.

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What happened after 2019?

It turns out that after that 2019 ruling, the Philippine government filed an appeal and actually won on July 12, 2021. The resolution of that government win is not on the Sandiganbayan website as of writing.

In that resolution, the anti-graft court partially granted the government’s appeal and said “a sweeping dismissal of the entire complaint on the ground of the best evidence rule is not warranted considering that many of the subject properties have long been recovered by the government.”

In the status report submitted by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), it turned out that government had already seized and taken control of stocks of 10 companies, dollar and peso deposits of one bank account, 13 real estate properties, 10 land titles, and 526 paintings.

Other companies had been dissolved, while others had been sold to either private persons or local governments. The status report attached in the resolution did not list down corresponding amounts.

The status report shows that the Marcoses are in control of only four properties: a beach house in Currimao town in Ilocos Norte; the museum and a guest house in Batac, the dictator’s hometown; and a house in Pandacan, Manila that is registered in the name of the heirs of Vicente Romualdez, Imelda Marcos’ grandfather.

In the latest resolution, the Sandiganbayan denied the government’s claim over the four properties.

“The plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration insofar as the properties that allegedly have not yet been recovered by the government are concerned is denied for its failure to prove its claims through a preponderance of evidence,” said the July 22 resolution. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.