MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan recently dismissed a P200-billion forfeiture case against the Marcoses, with the ponencia saying the Court cannot order the return of their assets to the treasury, but did the Marcos family actually win the case?
Not quite, at least for Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac, who said in a recently released separate concurring opinion that most of the assets and properties that make up the P200 billion have been returned to the government anyway (see list below).
"A quandary exists as to what actually the remaining assets and properties are, if any at all, which can continue to be the subject of the present action," said Mañalac in her 17-page concurring opinion.
Mañalac chided the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) for not keeping efficient track of its recoveries as the Sandiganbayan ruling also did not attach clear values to the Marcos assets that have been recovered.
"Plaintiff's memorandum did not bother to address this crucial matter. A clear and unambiguous listing of the remaining assets and properties in this case, especially the status of each and every one of them, given that significant supervening events had happened during the pendency of this case for more than 32 years, is necessary not only in order to avoid conflicting rulings but also for purposes of clarity, practicality and expediency," Mañalac said.
Is it ill-gotten wealth?
The ponente, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, said that lack of original documents led the Court to doubt whether the P200 billion in assets, both cash and properties, are indeed ill-gotten wealth.
"Absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten wealth by the Marcoses, the Court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury," said Quiroz's ponencia.
Mañalac disagreed, saying that past cases already establish an undisputable fact that the assets are indeed ill-gotten wealth.
"The fact that the Marcoses have ill-gotten wealth or illegally acquired properties has already been judicially established and settled in this jurisdiction," she said.
For Mañalac, the reason for dismissal is simply mootness, citing past decided cases which have already reconveyed the same assets. Mañalac also cited the legal principle of res judicata, which means that a case already adjudicated by a court may not be pursued further by the same parties.
Chides ponencia too
Dismissing the case based on the Best Evidence Rule, which disregarded documents for being photocopies, Quiroz said: "The Court cannot simply assume that the properties subject of this case were ill-gotten."
"Considering that numerous assets and properties had already been successfully recovered by plaintiff...a sweeping dismissal of the entire complaint on the bases propounded in the ponencia is not warranted," said Mañalac.
Enumerating all past decided Supreme Court cases that covered the same assets and properties, Mañalac said the Marcoses have since failed to "overcome the finding of prima facie presumption" of their ill-gotten wealth, some of which were returned because of compromise agreements.
"Indeed, 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," Mañalac said.
Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega also concurred but did not provide a separate opinion.
According to Mañalac, a review of past cases would show the following have already been reconveyed:
Some of the seized assets and properties have been awarded to Martial Law victims.
But the Arelma money, forfeited in favor of the government by the Supreme Court in 2014, is still in New York and under litigation for the Philippine government to obtain the asset.
American human rights lawyer Robert Swift said he would fight so the Arelma money does not go to the Philippine government, but to Filipino martial law victims.
Arelma Inc is among the corporate entities used during the presidency of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos to steal public funds and hide them in a foreign account.
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