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Govt loses 24-year-old wealth case vs ex-Marcos official

June 19, 2011 9:24pm

The government has lost a 24-year-old illegal wealth case against the Marcos couple, the late Energy Minister Geronimo Velasco, and five defendant corporations.

In a 78-page decision promulgated last June 16, the Sandiganbayan First Division junked the case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) due to insufficient evidence.

The decision held that government lawyers failed to prove that Velasco was a Marcos crony and that he amassed ill-gotten wealth by using his supposed close ties with the once powerful couple.

“(D)uring the course of trial, there was no iota of proof presented by the Plaintiff to establish complicity and/or acquiescence between Velasco with the spouses Marcoses, which would qualify the instant case as an ill-gotten wealth case," the anti-graft court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos.

The court came out with the decision despite Velasco’s admission that he played golf with the late President Ferdinand Marcos back when the latter was a member of the Senate, and that “he enjoyed the generosity and confidence of Marcos."

Velasco, who died on July 17, 2007, served as Energy Minister from 1973 to 1986, and was chairman and president of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) during the same period. He first joined the Marcos government as chairman of the National Electrification Administration in 1970, and also held positions in government as ambassador for Trade and Oil, and chairman of the Energy Development Board.

By Velasco’s own testimony, he said that he was “offered a number of positions by Pres. Marcos but he declined since he had other businesses."

The Sandiganbayan, however, said this did not mean that Velasco was in cahoots with Marcos in any supposed wrongdoing.

“We cannot equate appointment to a cabinet position with being a ‘close associate,’ to the point of categorically stating that such professional relationship was used in concert with other schemes and stratagems for the procurement of ill-gotten wealth. Similarly, We cannot conclude that defendant Velasco’s and President Marcos’ playing golf together would automatically make them close associates," it said.

Among the schemes supposedly used by Velasco was the transfer of P3.03 million worth of PNOC funds and equipment to construct the Telin Beach Resort. Government lawyers noted that Telin Resort was owned by Telin Development Corp., which had Gervel Inc. as its majority stockholder. Gervel is owned by Velasco and his family.

Other supposed illegal schemes were the purchase of an alleged near-derelict crude tanker for $5.36 million using PNOC funds at the behest of Marcos, collection of $8.32 million in commissions on oil tanker charters of PNOC, and using is indirectly or directly-controlled companies to corner government contracts.

The court, however, questioned government lawyers for failing to file graft charges against Velasco over the PNOC contracts in which his family has financial interests.

Concurring with the decision were Associate Justices Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and Efren N. de la Cruz, division chairman. — KBK, GMA News
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