Sandiganbayan dismisses lawsuit vs. Imelda Marcos’ clan on ill-gotten wealth

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the lawsuit against the siblings of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos as part of the government’s sequestration efforts in connection with the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Romualdez clan, although Mrs. Marcos and the late former President Ferdinand Marcos and two others are not yet “off the hook” on the case.

The First Division ordered the dismissal of the civil case this week against spouses Armando T. Romualdez and Vilma Romualdez and Alfredo T. Romualdez. But the Marcos couple, former Agriculture Secretary Nelia T. Gonzales, and businessman Ricardo Quintos were not included in the dismissed lawsuit.

Armando and Alfredo Romualdez are the brothers of Imelda while Quintos and Gonzales were majority stockholders and directors of companies supposedly created by Armando for the purpose allegedly of concealing and preventing the government’s recovery efforts on the assets suspected of being illegally obtained by the accused during the Marcos regime.

The government is seeking forfeiture of more than 60 properties, including ranches, pastureland, beach side properties, such assets as Golden Farms Inc., Highway Builders Inc., Dipudo Industries Inc., Maconacon Airways Inc., and Isabela Gas and Power Development Corp., from the accused, plus moral and exemplary damages on the factual, nominal, and temperal damages that the court may determine upon the resolution of the case.

In the Decision, the anti-graft court said that with regards to the Maconacon Airways, the Republic has made a sweeping conclusion that the company was a repository of the defendants’ ill-gotten wealth just because spouses Romualdez were incorporators of the firm.

It further stated that the ownership of the properties and relations of the Romualdezes to former President Marcos alone did not make these properties ill-gotten, especially considering that the government did not substantiate with concrete evidence abuse of power of authority on the part of the Romualdezes. It is important to prove that the properties were acquired using the resources of the government and their owners were able to illegally obtain them because of their close association to former President Marcos, which the state failed to establish on this aspect.

In sum, from the stipulation of the parties and competent documentary exhibits, what the government has preponderantly established are only the grant of credit facilities to GCF by the government’s financial institutions, such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), and GCFI’s failure to meet its obligations which, in themselves, are not irregular. However, there is dearth of evidence linking GCFI’s loan to the properties acquired by it or by the other four incorporators and the defendants.

It further pointed out that the government was unable to prove that Isabela Gas, and all other firms in question were granted foreign loans guaranteed by the DBP and that the firms availed of that loan.

The court noted that private documents presented during the trial, first and foremost were photocopies. No amount of proof of authenticity of the handwriting and signature of the former President can raise the probative value of said documents without first establishing the adequacy of secondary evidence.

“Consequently, the factual premises of the Executive Orders cannot simply be assumed. They will have to be duty established by adequate proof in each case, in a proper judicial proceeding, so that the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth may be validly and properly adjudged and consummated. Although there are some who maintain the fact-that over an immense torture, and vast resources of the government have been amassed by the former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, and close associates both here and abroad. And they have resorted to all sorts of clever schemes and manipulations to disguise and hide their wealth within the realm of judicial notion, being of so extensive notoriety as to dispense with proof thereof… Be there as it may, the requirement of evidentiary substantialism has been expressly acknowledged, and the procedure to be followed explicitly laid down…”, the anti-graft court stated in its Decision. Ma. Luisa Macabuhay-Garcia/PNA/