Graft court junks ill-gotten wealth case vs. Marcos Sr., Imelda, others

FORMER FIRST LADY Imelda R. Marcos and family. The Sandiganbayan has junked another wealth case against them and their cronies.

By Jennifer T. Santos
QUEZON CITY – The Sandiganbayan has dismissed an ill-gotten case filed against the late President Ferdinand Marcos and several others as the anti-graft court ruled that the government prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence against those accused.

In a 156-page decision dated February 21, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division junked Civil Case 0024 which alleges the late Marcos Sr., former First Lady Imelda, Luis Yulo, Roberto Benedicto, Nicolas Dehesa, Jose Tengco Jr, Rafael Sison, Cesar Zalamea and Don Ferry of securing enormous loans from state-run financial institutions in favor of companies they control.

The case also alleged that the defendants obtained, under favored and very liberal terms, huge loans from the Government Service Insurance System in favor of Philippine Integrated Meat Company (PIMECO), which is a corporation beneficially held and/or controlled by Sabido and the other defendants, and  that Sabido installed himself as Chairman of the Board of Lianga Bay Logging Co. (Lianga), a domestic corporation that owned and operated a lumber concession in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and performed acts of depredation against the best interest of the lumber workers.

In its ruling, the anti-graft court said “that the plaintiff (the Philippine government) failed to prove by preponderant evidence that the properties alleged in the complaint are ill-gotten and/or were beneficially owned and controlled by former President Marcos and his family.”

Sandiganbayan’s ruling also stated that the state prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Rolando Gapud, which the court concluded as hearsay because he did not take the witness stand.

In the 156-page decision and written by Associate Justice Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega, the anti-graft court also lifted the government’s sequestration of Palawan-based Yulo King Ranch (YKR) and the Lianga Bay Logging Co. in Surigao del Sur province.

“In fine, this court finds that the plaintiff (Presidential Commission on Good Government) failed to prove by preponderant evidence that the properties alleged in the complaint are ill-gotten and/or was beneficially owned and controlled by former President Marcos and his family,” the court said.

The anti-graft court noted that the post EDSA administration of the late president Corazon Aquino relied heavily on the affidavit of Rolando Gapud, who claimed to be the financial advisor of the former president (Marcos) and who said he had personal knowledge that the latter used his close business associates as his dummy in YKR and Pimeco.

The government of former President Corazon Aquino said YKR benefited from proclamations issued by then President Marcos particularly Presidential Decree No. 619, which authorized the classification of public domain lands into grazing land. The decree allowed YKR to take control and use 40,000 hectares of public land as grazing ground for large-scale cattle raising.

Lianga Bay Logging Co., on the other hand, allegedly benefited after the American firm Georgia Pacific International Corp. (GPIC), which originally found the company, divested 35,432 shares of stocks in the firm at USD90 per share in 1974 in compliance with the provisions of the newly approved 1973 Constitution at the time.

The divested shares were acquired by the Sabido Group gaining control over the production of logs by the firm.

The court noted that “Gapud was not presented in court to testify on the alleged matters and under the rules, failure to put the affiant on the witness stand is fatal to the case as it renders the affidavit inadmissible under the hearsay rule.”

The court added that while Gapud’s affidavit was acknowledged before the Philippine Consular Office in Hong Kong and had been in the archives of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), it does not make its veracity unassailable.

“The due execution of the affidavit was not sufficiently established. The notary public or others who saw that the document was signed or at least could confirm its recitals were not presented,” it said adding that “there was no expert testimony or competent witnesses who attested to the genuineness of the questioned signatures.” (