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SC upholds junking of PCGG’s P51-B claim vs. Marcoses, cronies

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The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the Sandiganbayan ruling that dismissed the Philippine Commission on Good Government's (PCGG) P51-billion claim against the late former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., his wife Imelda, and their alleged cronies.

In its ruling, the SC's First Division affirmed the decisions of the anti-graft court that rejected the now-31-year-old complaint for reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution and damages for lack of evidence.

The SC agreed with the Sandiganbayan when it said the "weight of evidence fails to preponderate" in the PCGG's favor when the body's evidence is checked against that of the Marcoses and their alleged cronies.

"No error could be attributed to the Sandiganbayan when it dismissed the Republic's complaint for insufficiency of evidence," said the 28-page April 4 ruling penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.

On July 24, 1987, the PCGG accused the Marcoses, former construction magnate Rodolfo Cuenca, his son Roberto, former Philippine National Bank president Panfilo Domingo, former trade minister Roberto Ongpin and several others of conspiring to engage in "schemes, devices and stratagems" to aquire ill-gotten wealth.

Cuenca stood charged with creating and managing the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) in connivance with the other respondents.

The PCGG alleged the CDCP obtained "favored" public workers contracts worth billions of pesos from the Department of Public Highways, the National Irrigation Administration, the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation, the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation, and the Light Railway Transit Project.

They were also accused of securing through CDCP loans and financial assistance from government financial institutions without sufficient collateral, in violation of banking laws and sound banking practices.

The PCGG also alleged that the respondents organized the Universal Holding Corporation, a holding company for the CDCP, the Sta. Ines Melale Forest Products Corp, and Resort Hotels.

But in 2010, the Sandiganbayan regarded the  documentary and testimonial evidence presented by the PCGG as insufficient, ruling that executive issuances presented by the PCGG as proof "are not per se illegal" due to the presumption of good faith in the performance of official duty.

Eight years later, the SC's First Division found itself siding the with the anti-graft court on the matter of the evidence presented by the PCGG in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines.

"Juxtaposing the specific allegations in the complaint with the Republic's documentary and testimonial evidence and as against the respondents' documentary and testimonial evidence showing the due organization and existence of CDCP, the Court agrees with the Sandiganbayan that the weight of evidence fails to preponderate in the Republic's favor," the SC division said.

"Neither were the Presidential issuances nor the witnesses' testimonies sufficient to prove the allegations in the Republic's complaint," it added.

The SC agreed with the Sandiganbayan in excluding a large part of the PCGG's documentary evidence for being photocopies and not original copies, making them inadmissible unless shown that the original is unavailable.

The PCGG failed to present the original copies of the documentary evidence they showed despite knowing where they were located and did not show proof of "diligent efforts" to produce them, the SC held.

The Sandiganbayan was also correct, the SC said, when it observed that the PCGG failed to show copies the public documents it presented that were attested by the officer who had legal custody of them.

"In sum, absent preponderant evidence to hold otherwise, the Republic failed to prove that the respondents by themselves or in unlawful concert with one another, accumulated or participated in the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth insofar as the specific allegations in the subject complaint are concerned," the SC said. — MDM, GMA News

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