PCGG loses appeal, P102-billion case vs Marcos crony still junked

The government through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) lost its appeal as the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan upheld its August 2019 decision junking a P102-billion civil suit against a Marcos crony.

"Considering therefore that no new and compelling grounds were presented, the present motion bears no weight in calling for a reversal much less modification of the assailed decision," said the Sandiganbayan Second Division in a decision promulgated on February 13.

The same justices junked the appeal; the decision was penned by Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap-Pahimna, with concurrences from Associate Justices Oscar Herrera and Michael Frederick Musngi.

No new evidence

In August 2019, when the court junked the case, it admonished the PCGG for failing to present sufficient evidence.

In the appeal process, the court said "the grounds raised in the motion are not at all new."

The case involves Roberto Benedicto, former ambassador to Japan and a close friend of Ferdinand Marcos since their law school days at the University of the Philippines. Benedicto died in May 2000, but while still alive, he surrendered billions of his assets as part of a compromise agreement with the government.

The PCGG accused the Development Bank of the Philippines of granting loans to Benedicto companies, who allegedly forwarded kickbacks to the Marcoses.

State-run networks RPN, IBC, and BBC-2 also allegedly became conduits for funds that would later be remitted to Senator Imee Marcos.

Ramon Monzon, the former CEO of RPN, IBC, and BBC, cooperated with the government and wrote up an affidavit to say he was a dummy of Imee. However the PCGG could not produce the original affidavit during trial.

In the appeal, the PCGG cited a Supreme Court ruling in Republic vs Fe Roa Gimenez, which says the court should have a "more liberal approach" in treating evidence, or the lack of it, in cases involving ill-gotten wealth.

The decision, also related to the Marcoses, allowed the PCGG to file its formal offer of evidence. The Sandiganbayan noted that it admitted all the evidence provided by the PCGG, so it actually upheld the ruling.

Appreciation of the evidence was another matter.

"In the course of evaluation, however, the Court had to discard some documentary evidence for being incompetent and/or irrelevant," the Sandiganbayan said.

Did Marcoses really win?

As the Sandiganbayan dismisses Marcos cases, Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac raised the question of whether the government was losing money by losing these cases, or if the subject money has already been seized.

"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," Mañalac said in a 17-page concurring opinion when her division junked the so-called "mother case" of all Marcos cases by yearend 2019.

The case involves P200 billion in total.

Mañalac said this is also PCGG's fault.

"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. – Rappler.com

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.