Court rules: Marcos family need not return P200B in 'ill-gotten wealth'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Considered one of the "mother cases" of the Marcos forfeiture cases, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan dismissed on Monday, December 16, Civil Case No. 0002 allowing the entire Marcos family to keep P200 billion in alleged ill-gotten wealth.

The main reason for the dismissal of the case was violation of the Best Evidence Rule, because the documents submitted by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) were "mere photocopies."

"Thus, even if the Court were to defy the best evidence rule, it still could not fully ascertain the contents of these documents and make an intelligent evaluation therefrom," said the Sandiganbayan 4th Division in a 42-page decision promulgated on December 16 and penned by Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, with concurrences from Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega and Maryanne Corpus Mañalac.

"The Court acknowledges the atrocities committed during 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 wealth by the Marcoses, the Court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury," the Sandiganbayan added.

The case

Filed in 1987, and amended in 1990, Civil Case No. 0002 was filed against spouses Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, their children Imee, Ferdinand Jr or Bongbong, and Irene.

The PCGG sought to recover an estimated P200 billion* (US$3.9 billion) in ill-gotten wealth computed from the wealth that exceeded their lawful income as public officials.

 The PCGG alleged the following Marcos assets to have been ill-gotten:

The PCGG found that these were grossly disproportionate to the lawful income of the Marcoses. From 1960 to 1984, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was found to have obtained lawful income of only P8.148 million after taxes.

Imelda Marcos acquired net income of only P2 million as governor of Metropolitan Manila and Minister of Human Settlements.

The PCGG said Imee, Irene, and Bongbong "actively collaborated with their parents in confiscating and/or unlawfully appropriating funds and other property and concealing the same."

This year, the PCGG has lost 4 Marcos civil cases, including this one. The other 3 are:

The PCGG won earlier this month Civil Case No. 0009, where the Sandiganbayan Third Division ordered the return of billions of assets of Marcos dummies Manuel Nieto and Jose Africa.

Imelda Marcos has no more criminal cases pending before the anti-graft court.

With this latest loss, a total of 24 civil and forfeiture cases against Imelda Marcos have been dismissed, while at least 18 are pending and one archived at the Sandiganbayan. (READ: What's the latest on cases vs Imelda Marcos, family?) – Rappler.com

*$1 = P50.83

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story used the headline: Marcos family gets away with paying P200 billion in 'ill-gotten wealth.' This has been corrected to the current one which is more accurate – Court rules: Marcos family need not return P200B in 'ill-gotten wealth'

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.

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