MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the reinstatement of the three children of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos as defendants in the P200-billion accumulated ill-gotten wealth cases filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) at the Sandiganbayan.
In a resolution, the SC’s Second Division also ordered the removal of the name of businessman Gregorio Ma. Araneta III as defendant in the case for government’s failure to prove its case against him in Civil Case 0002, which seeks to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and so-called cronies.
Araneta is the husband of Marcos daughter Irene, who is a respondent in the forfeiture case, along with her siblings, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos-Manotoc.
The High Court denied for lack of merit the motion for reconsideration filed by the PCGG through the Office of the Solicitor General seeking a reversal of the SC’s February 8, 2012 decision, which affirmed with modification the December 6, 2005 resolution of the anti-graft court granting the demurrer to evidence filed by respondents-spouses Araneta for insufficiency of evidence.
“Acting on the OSG’s motion for reconsideration of the decision dated February 8, 2012, the Court resolves to deny the motion with finality, the basic issues raised therein having been duly considered and passed upon by the Court in the aforesaid decision and no substantial argument having been adduced to warrant the reconsideration sought,” the SC held.
The tribunal has also enjoined the parties from filing further pleadings or motion on the matter as it ordered to let the entry of judgment made in due course.
Penned by Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the decision stated that being compulsory heirs of their father, the Marcos siblings should remain as defendants answerable in three wealth cases, pertaining to the acquisition of media networks IBC-13, BBC-2 and RPN-9; alleged use of the De Soleil Apparel for dollar salting; and the alleged acquisition and operation of the bus company Pantranco North Express Inc.
The ruling granted with modification the findings of the Sandiganbayan that government prosecutors disregarded procedural rules and failed to present available crucial evidence before the trial court that would have proven the guilt or innocence of the Marcos siblings as collaborators of respondent former President and First Lady Imelda Marcos and Araneta.
The SC said the anti-graft court did not err in junking the complaint against the Marcos siblings because of the prosecutors’ failure to comply with Rule 130, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, which mandates that the evidence must be the original document itself.
Government prosecutors also failed to sufficiently explain in its petition why it failed to present the originals of the documents showing the Marcos siblings participation in the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth.
But while petitioner PCGG failed to observe the best evidence rule to prove its allegations that the siblings connived with their parents in amassing ill-gotten wealth, the Court held that the Marcos siblings are parties-in-interest without whom there can be no final determination of an action.
“Unless the executors of the Marcos estate or the heirs are ready to waive in favor of the state their right to defend or protect the estate or those properties found to be ill-gotten in their possession, control or ownership, then they may not be dropped as defendants in the civil case pending before the Sandiganbayan,” the Court ruled.
Citing Section 1 of Rule 87 of the Rules of Court, the SC said actions may be commenced against executors to recover from the estate, real or personal property, or an interest, to enforce a lien, or recover damages for an injury to person or property, noting that the complaint is one for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages.
The SC also pointed out that under the rules of succession, the heirs instantaneously become co-owners of the Marcos properties upon the death of the President, thus, the property rights and obligations are transmitted to another through the decedent’s death.
Sereno, who was President Benigno Aquino III’s first appointee to the High Court, likewise ordered that a copy of the decision be furnished to the Office of the President “so that it may look into the circumstances of this case and determine the liability, if any, of the lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General and the PCGG in the manner by which this case was handled in the Sandiganbayan.”
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Portugal Perez and Bienvenido Reyes.
In its complaint, the PCGG specifically accused Imee of dollar salting by using Glorious Sun to import denim fabrics from one supplier at prices much higher than those paid by other users of similar materials.
It was also alleged that the Marcoses personally benefitted from the sequestered media networks IBC-13, BBC-2, and RPN-9, in which Imee had a substantial interest.
Irene, on the other hand, was accused, of having conspired with her husband, in his being conduit of the late President to Pantranco, thus, paving the way for the President’s ownership of the company in violation of Article VII, Section 4, of the Constitution.
In December 6, 2005, the Sandiganbayan granted the motion filed by the Marcos siblings seeking the outright dismissal of the complaint against them for insufficiency of evidence. (JCV/Sunnex)