THE Sandiganbayan has denied the bid of former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos and daughter Irene Marcos-Araneta to regain possession of several assets, including a frozen trust account that have either been sequestered or surrendered to the government for allegedly being part of the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth.
In a 40-page resolution in Civil Case No. 0002 (reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages), the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division sided with the Presidential Commission on Good Government’s (PCGG) opposition to the Marcoses’ omnibus motion for a writ of execution on the properties that are subjects of the civil case.
The PCGG, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed its opposition to the motion last August 16, 2022 or barely two months after Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra assumed the post. Guevarra, who served as justice secretary during the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, was appointed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., son of the former first lady.
The Marcoses filed the omnibus motion for execution based on the Sandiganbayan’s resolution dated July 22, 2022 denying with finality the PCGG’s motion for reconsideration of its 2019 decision junking the P200 billion forfeiture case against them.
The Marcos family moved that the sequestration and freeze orders on assets and properties included in the complaint could now be lifted following the 2019 ruling.
They also sought the anti-graft’s court declaration that the properties were not ill-gotten and returned these to the previous owners.
The Marcoses insisted that the sequestration, freeze order and provisional takeover of PCGG of the assets and properties subject of the case do not deprive them as owner of the title or any right to the property sequestered or taken over.
With respect to the surrendered assets by virtue of compromise agreements, the Marcoses argue that at the time of the compromise agreements were executed, their consent as rightful owners of the properties were not obtained.
They insisted that there was no valid contract when the agreements were entered into by the PCGG, thus, the properties subject of the said compromise agreements must be returned to their lawful owners.
As to the sequestered assets, the Marcoses maintained that the PCGG only exercises powers of administration over the properties and never acquired ownership of the same.
They claimed that the PCGG has not offered any explanation on why some of the sequestered properties are not in their custody.
In opposing the Marcoses’ motion, the OSG stressed that the dismissal of the forfeiture case has yet to attain finality, thus, cannot be the subject of execution.
The OSG argued that it filed a petition for review on certiorari before the Supreme Court on August 10, 2022, which is within the reglementary period. It also pointed out that the Marcoses failed to raise valid reasons for the grant of their motion.
The OSG echoed the findings of the anti-graft court in its resolution dated December 6, 2005 that the bulk of evidence presented by the PCGG constitute prima facie presumption that the properties were ill-gotten.
The said finding was affirmed by the SC in a decision issued on February 8, 2012. In their motion, the Marcoses noted that with the case having dragged on for more than three decades, they “have suffered greatly, mentally and emotionally, not to mention the dissipation of seized properties causing the unjust and unreasonable deprivation of their proprietary rights.”
In ruling against the Marcoses, the Sandiganbayan held the issuance of a writ of execution couldn’t prosper since its judgment has not yet attained finality with the filing by the OSG before the SC of an appeal of its July 26, 2022 resolution.
“The fact that more than three decades have passed before the said case was decided is not a good reason considering that numerous factors have contributed to said length of period, which even includes the acquisition of jurisdiction over the defendants on different dates, the inclusion of additional defendants after the admission of the Second and Third Amended Complaints, and the filing of numerous motions and petitions, among others,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi stated.
“The defendants also offered no proof or reason how the properties subject of this case are being dissipated. The Court notes that the execution of judgment pending appeal is an exception to the general rule and must, therefore, be strictly construed. So, too, it is not to be availed of and applied routinely, but only in extraordinary circumstances,” it added.