MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has junked the claim of the Marcos family to a resort property in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
The Sandiganbayan First Division made the decision after voiding a 1978 lease agreement between then president Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippine Tourism Authority involving a 57.68-hectare resort property in Barangay Suba in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
In a 33-page decision dated April 21, 2014, the anti-graft court ruled that Marcos had no legal rights over the property since it is "inalienable public domain,” it being a national park.
"The Paoay Lake and lands within one kilometer from its water line...was declared to be a national park and therefore considered public land. These were therefore outside the commerce of man," the court said.
With this ruling, all 154 lots covered by the Marcos-PTA lease deal and structures found on them were pronounced by the court as government property. This includes lots covered by approved patents to the children and grandchildren of the former president and any other third party.
The case was filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government on March 3, 2010.
The Sandiganbayan advised government lawyers to immediately coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Land Management Bureau (DENR-LMB) to void adverse claims by other parties on the property.
It said that the Marcos heirs and others have approved and/or pending patent applications for more than half of the lots, following Presidential Decree No 1554, which reclassified stretches of land surrounding Paoay Lake as "alienable public land.”
The court noted that of the 154 lots covered by the Marcos-PTA lease deal, 79 lots are under free patents or have pending free patent applications by Ilocos Norte provincial Governor Imee Marcos and her children.
Former First Lady now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr and Irene Marcos-Araneta had executed waiver of rights over the lots in favor of Imee and her children.
Marcos signed PD No1554 on Aug 11, 1978, 4 months before the Marcos-PTA lease deal was sealed.
The Sandiganbayan cited Section 101 of the Public Land Act which “provides a remedy whereby lands of the public domain fraudulently awarded to the applicant may be recovered or reverted back to its original owner, the government. An action for reversion has to be instituted by the Solicitor General, in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Senator Marcos had sought the dismissal of the case, citing lack of jurisdiction by the Sandiganbayan. He insisted that the government did not file a forfeiture case to assert its ownership of the property, and is therefore not considered ill-gotten wealth.
In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said that the Office of the Solicitor General and the PCGG were able to establish that the property belonged to the government and was illegally acquired by the Marcos family and their associates.
"...(I)t does not matter that the PCGG never sequestered the property. What matters is that the petition alleges that the former president used all his powers and influence to appropriate to himself all the lots covered by the lease with scanty claims of ownership," the court said.
It said that "hundred of millions of pesos" in taxpayers’ money was spent on developing the Paoay property after the lease agreement was signed, and cited this as proof of unlawful financial interests by then president Marcos.
It also cited the Marcos heirs’ patent applications over lots covered by the lease deal.
"...(T)he Marcos heirs have concentrated their free patent applications on the lots where most of the improvements are situated. Just on this score, the lease contract should be declared void," the court said.
Under the ruling, the Malacañang Ti Amianan (Malacañang of the North), Maharlika Hall building, Suba Sports Complex, the Old Motor Pool, swimming pools, tennis court, and an 18-hole golf course on the sprawling resort property were declared in favor of the government and placed under the control of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
Associate Justice Rafael R Lagos penned the decision. It was concurred in by Associate Justices Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and Efren N. de la Cruz, division chairman. – Rappler.com