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SC denies gov't bid to sequester Tan's share in Allied Bank, Fortune Tobacco

January 29, 2008 5:00pm
The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied with finality the government's bid to sequester the shares of taipan Lucio Tan in several corporations, including Allied Banking Corporation and Fortune Tobacco Corporation.

This is due to the failure of the government through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Solicitor General to raise any new arguments in their motion for reconsideration to warrant a reversal of the court's December 7, 2007 decision, the Court's First Division said.

"Acting on the separate motions for reconsideration, filed by petitioner (PCGG) and by the OSG and considering that the basic issues have already been passed upon and there is no substantial agument therein to warrant a modification of this Court's decision, the Court resolves to deny the reconsideration with finality," the minute resolution stated.

Lawyer Jay Ermin Miguel, head of the PCGG's legal department, said that the sequestration is just a "provisionary remedy" to execute the supervision over the assets.

"The decision of the high court is just on technical grounds, which our Commission before apparently failed to do. We just have to prove our main course of action before the Sandiganbayan. The sequestration trial will still proceed with the Sandiganbayan," Miguel said.

In its December 7 ruling, penned by Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, the SC affirmed the Sandiganbayan's decision in civil cases nos. 0096, 0097, 0098, and 0099, all entitled "Lucio Tan et al vs. PCGG.

The said decision effectively lifted the writs of sequestration against Tan's properties such as Allied Bank, Maranao Hotels and Resort Corp., Foremost Farms Inc., and Fortune Tobacco and Shareholdings Inc.

The high court claimed that the sequestration body failed to present prima facie evidence to show that the shares belong to the government or any of its branches, instrumentalities, enterprises, banks or financial institutions.

The disputed shares sequestered by the PCGG in these four firms do not constitute ill-gotten wealth, according to SC

The Court said that PCGG's evidence did not show how the properties acquired by Tan and his co-respondents became ill-gotten and whether former President Ferdinand Marcos intervened in their acquisition.

"Nor is there evidence that respondents, taking undue advantage of their connections or relationship with former President Marcos or his family, relatives and close associates, were able to acquire those shares of stock," the SC said.

The only evidence held by petitioner prior to the issuance of the writs of sequestration was the minutes of its meetings, the Court pointed out.

The PCGG, which is tasked to recover ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, further stressed that the decision of the Sandiganbayan, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in its December 7 ruling, was null and void as it has no jurisdiction over the petitions for certiorari, prohibition and injunction originally filed by Tan.

It said that Presidential Decree No. 1606, the law creating Sandiganbayan, did not vest the said court with jurisdiction to take cognizance of such petitions.

Even if the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over to try and decide Tan's petition, the PCGG claimed that it erred in holding that there is no prima facie evidence to justify the issuance of the sequestration orders.

The PCGG noted that it presented voluminous documents as evidence which respondents failed to contradict.

Aside from documentary evidence, the PCGG and OSG stressed that the admission of former First Lady Imelda Marcos that her husband owns 60 percent of the Tan's companies can be considered as prima facie basis to warrant the sequestration of the subject firms.

Aside from Tan, also named respondents in the suit were Mariano Tanenglian, Allied Bank, Iris Holdings & Development Corp., Jewel Holdings Inc., Carmen Khao Tan, Florencio Santos Jr., Foremost Farms Inc., Shareholdings Inc. and Fortune Tobacco Corp.

The case stemmed from the orders issued in 1986 and on January 7, 1987 by the PCGG to sequester shares of stock of Tan and the other respondents in the firms. Thereafter, the respondents filed a civil complaint to have the orders of sequestration lifted.

On August 23, 1993, the Sandiganbayan rendered its decision in Civil Case No. 0095 nullifying the PCGG's orders of sequestration of Sipalay's shares of stocks in Maranao Hotel & Resort Corporation; and in Civil Case 0100 nullifying the government's search and seizure order on Allied Bank's documents.

On March 2, 2006, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its "joint decision" in the remaining civil cases Nos. 0096 to 0099, declaring that the writs of sequestration issued by government against PCGG's shares of stock are void and of no legal effect.

In resolving civil cases No. 0096-0099, the Sandiganbayan held that the writs of sequestration were issued by PCGG without prima facie factual foundation that the properties covered are ill-gotten wealth. - GMANews.TV