By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, Reporter

Decision to forfeit alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family upheld

Posted on April 02, 2014

AN ALLEGED ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family kept in a New York bank should be forfeited in favor of the government, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality.

Voting unanimously, the SC’s special second division affirmed its April 25, 2012 decision, and denied the motions for reconsideration of Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda R. Marcos (2nd district) which sought to reverse a Sandiganbayan ruling forfeiting the family’s alleged “Arelma assets.”

The high court division, in a six-page resolution promulgated on March 12, said the SC already addressed the issues they raised.

“In any case, we find that the Sandiganbayan did not err in granting the motion for partial summary judgment, despite the fact that the Arelma account and proceed are held abroad,” Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno wrote.

“To rule otherwise contravenes the intent of the forfeiture law, and indirectly privileges violators who are able to hide public assets abroad: beyond the reach of the courts and their recovery by the State,” she added.

The Arelma assets allegedly involve $3.67 million, and grew to around $35 million deposited through “Arelma,Inc.”, a Panamanian entity maintaining an account in Merrill Lynch, New York, which forms part of the Marcos family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth.

The Arelma assets are on top of the Marcos family’s Swiss bank accounts totaling $356 million (now estimated at $683 million) and United States treasury notes amounting to $30 million, which the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), on Dec. 17, 1991, asked to be forfeited in favor of the government for being ill-gotten.

The Swiss accounts were escrowed with the Philippine National Bank (PNB), while the treasury notes were frozen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In 2009, the Sandiganbayan granted the government’s motion for summary judgment, saying a 2003 SC decision declaring the Swiss bank accounts as ill-gotten “did not preclude” a separate judgment from other assets that were sought to be forfeited.

The anti-graft court ruling prompted the former president’s son Ferdinand, Jr., and wife Imelda to question the decision before the SC.

In its April 2012 decision, the high court ruled the anti-graft tribunal complied with the requisites in forfeiture cases.

It added the state could still seek the forfeiture of the Arelma assets even if the SC already ruled on the Swiss accounts, saying the civil case involving the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth is still active.

PCGG, in a statement, lauded the high court’s decision favoring the government.

“It is gratifying to be able to share this piece of good news with our people. While there are frustrating delays and obstacles in the course of our work, the commission remains steadfast in its commitment to restore what was taken from the public coffers,” PCGG Chairman Andres D. Bautista said in a statement.

“The Arelma assets were illicitly acquired in grave betrayal of the people’s trust and therefore forfeited from the moment of embezzlement,” he added.

Last February, Mr. Bautista said the remainder of Mr. Marcos’s recovered ill-gotten wealth from the Swiss accounts has been remitted to the government, amounting to $29.1 million or P1.3 billion.

In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court upheld the Zurich District Attorney’s ruling granting the Philippine government’s request of the funds on the following conditions: that the amount is deposited in an “AA”-rated bank, put in escrow by the government and the Philippine SC rule with finality on the forfeiture of the said amount.

The SC, in 2003, ruled that the $683 million should be forfeited in favor of the government, saying the evidence was enough to award the ill-gotten money in favor of the latter.