Court dashes state push to reclaim Marcos wealth

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FORMER FIRST LADY Imelda Marcos showed up at the Sandiganbayan on Nov. 16, 2018 to post bail while she pursues legal remedies to reverse her graft conviction for funneling public funds to overseas bank accounts. — PHILSTAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE COUNTRY’S anti-graft court has rejected for insufficient evidence a 30-year-old government suit seeking to recover P102 billion of alleged ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, his family and their associates.

In a 67-page decision, the Sandiganbayan Second Division said the state “miserably” failed to prove that Mr. Marcos and his widow Imelda had illegally given out loans to several companies at the government’s expense.

The court’s decision came three decades after the case was first filed. The late President Corazon C. Aquino created the Presidential Commission on Good Government in the 1980s to go after billions of dollars worth of assets that the Marcoses allegedly stole from Philippine coffers.

During the late president’s 20-year rule, his wife, who served several terms as congresswoman after returning from exile in the US, amassed a large collection of art, jewelry, property and — most famously — at least 1,000 pairs of designer shoes.

The Marcoses collected paintings by Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Cezanne, Rembrandt and Rafael and Michelangelo, palatial homes in the US and the Philippines, gold necklaces and diamond tiaras before they were ousted in a popular uprising in 1986. At that time, investigators put their wealth at about $10 billion.

In its decision, the anti-graft court said the government had also failed to prove that the couple had pocketed income and revenue from the operations of several state-owned television networks. The state likewise failed to prove that the Marcoses had asked their cronies to hold and launder funds in their behalf.

“It saddens the court that it took more than 30 years before this case is submitted for decision,” the court said. “And yet, the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain any of the causes of action against the remaining defendants.”

“The parties must rely on the strength of their own evidence, not upon the weakness of the defense offered by their opponent,” it said. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras