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Court orders Imelda to return P10M ill-gotten money

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has ordered Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, to return P10 million in government funds secretly taken out by her late husband from the National Food Authority 27 years ago. In a 15-page decision the Fifth Division promulgated on Sept. 9, but released to the media only on Monday, the anti-graft court said that President Marcos personally ordered that P10 million be withdrawn from the NFA’s Philippines National Bank (PNB) account and transferred to a private account at Security Bank & Trust Co. on July 27, 1983. “(T)he unaccounted and unjustified transfer of the P10 million NFA funds to a private bank was highly irregular and illegal. Premises considered, judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against defendant Imelda Romualdez Marcos as the legal representative of her spouse, the late defendant Ferdinand Marcos, and in her personal capacity…," the Sandiganbayan declared. Associate Justice Roland B. Jurado, who also chairs the Fifth Division, penned the verdict with which Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon E. Inoturan concurred. The Sandiganbayan ordered Rep. Marcos pay 27 years worth of interest on the P10 million as well as P1 million in moral damages, P500,000 in exemplary damages, P250,000 in nominal damages, and P200,000 in attorney’s fees, and to shoulder the total cost of the litigation. The former first lady could not comment on the matter as she hasn't yet read the decision, according to the chief of staff of Rep. Marcos in the House of Representative. "She hasn't seen it yet. Her lawyer hasn't presented it to her yet," Bebot Diaz told GMANews.TV over the phones. Diaz also said that Rep. Marcos was out on a meeting. Absence of paper trail Despite the absence of a paper trail, the testimony of Jesus Tanchanco, the former NFA administrator, was sufficient enough to establish the fraudulent transaction. As PNB maintains transaction records only for 10 years, there was nothing on its books about the fund transfer, said PNB vice president Antonio Alcaras and sales and service head Ruby Ocampo, who testified in the case before the Sandiganbayan. Dropped as a defendant in the case after signing an immunity deal with government in 1988, Tanchanco executed an affidavit that he allowed the disbursement of P10 million from the NFA-PNB account on July 27, 1983 after receiving phoned instructions from then President Marcos. NFA comptroller Cesar A. Aquino withdrew the money upon Tanchanco’s directive and delivered the money "in three big bags" to then Security Bank president Rolando Gapud, who met the NFA officials at the backdoor, Tanchanco said in his signed statement. The case against Aquino – also a defendant – was dismissed on the ground that he acted on orders of Tanchanco and government lawyers failed to show that he profited from the transaction. In June 1986 – roughly four months after the Marcoses, their relatives, cronies and associates fled the country in the wake of the People Power revolution – the administration of then President Corazon Aquino found in Malacañang documents that included a list of receipts for 1983 and 1984, prepared by Gapud showing an entry for P10 million dated June 29, 1983. “Tanchanco’s testimony provided the trail of events and the personalities therein involved, evincing the illegal diversion of funds from the government thru its agency, to what convincingly are private coffers," the Sandiganbayan pointed out. —With Amita Legaspi/VS, GMANews.TV