Marcoses cleared in P1-B wealth case

THE Sandiganbaya dismissed the P1 billion civil case filed against the Marcos family over alleged ill-gotten wealth.

The Second Division ruled that the evidence presented by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was insufficient particularly on the allegation that Bienvenido Tantoco and his other relatives acted as a dummies of late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family in acquiring expensive assets.

“Plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” the decision said.

The decision was promulgated on September 25 and a copy was released to media yesterday. It was penned by Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi, Oscar Herrera, and Lorifel Lacap Pahimna.

For the record, this is the second civil suit against the Marcoses that the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division dismissed this year. In August, the same division dismissed a P102 billion case involving alleged crony Roberto Benedicto also due to insufficient evidence.

Based on the case filed by PCGG, the Tantocos were charged for reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution, and damages when they acquired franchise to operate duty-free shops.

The scheme allegedly used Tourist Duty Free Shops Incorporated (TDFS), and its “willing” chairman Dominador Santiago, so the group could secure favorable decrees from the Marcos government like exemption from taxes and privilege to have spaces in international airports.

“The plaintiff adds that the defendants managed to secure presidential approval for them to operate and manage exclusively duty-free shops and to pay only a minimum franchise tax of seven percent,” the court said, citing the prosecution’s claims.

“This franchise tax was also allegedly shared with the Nutrition Center of the Philippines with the defendant Imelda Marcos as President, the Manila Seedling Foundation with defendant Tantoco Jr. as President […] but only two percent went to the government coffers and the remaining five percent became defendant Imelda Marcos’ source of petty cash,” the court added.

However, the anti-graft court stressed that the documents and witnesses presented by the state prosecutors did not prove that there was conspiracy between the two families.

“Evidently, the plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” the ruling read.

“The alleged participation of the defendants in securing the issuance of the presidential decree was not established.  Moreover, the claim that five percent of the franchise tax went to defendant Imelda Marcos has no evidentiary support,” it added.

During the trial proper, only four witnesses were presented by the prosecution, while only 11 documents were admitted.

Likewise, the anti-graft court noted that some of the other exhibits presented by the prosecution, in this case the PCGG, were not certified true copies of the documents.

The other exhibits were also rejected by the court for being mere photocopies, which failed to comply with the Best Evidence Rule.

Aside from the duty-free shops, other assets involved in the case include several real estate properties in the United States and in the Philippines, and businesses like Rustan International Marketing and Eagle Mining Corporation.