GERMAN BANK SAYS SINGAPORE HAVE FINAL SAY ON MARCOS MONEY

Manila, September 20, 2003  (STAR) By Aurea Calica  - A German bank in Singapore holding the $683-million Marcos Swiss accounts said Wednesday it will be up to a Singapore court to determine the proper disposition of the money due to different claims made by various parties.

The Singapore branch of WestLB AG said in a letter to the Philippine National Bank dated Sept. 17 that it "has received multiple claims to certain deposits currently being held at the Singapore branch in the name of the PNB."

"Accordingly, the deposits will be held at the Singapore branch until a final determination by a competent court in Singapore as to the proper disposition of the deposits at the Singapore branch," the letter, signed by WestLB AGís general manager Teo Ee Ngoh and legal counsel Simon Poey, reads.

The letter was addressed to PNB first vice president Rogel ZeŮarosa in Manila, an entity identified as Rajah & Tann in Singapore, and Robert Swift, the US-based lawyer representing victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.

Sol Schreiber, special master for the late President Ferdinand Marcosí estate, was also furnished a copy in New York.

The letter, however, did not identify the parties claiming the Swiss funds.

It also did not say whether the decision had anything to do with the global injunction issued Sept. 2 by Hawaii District Court Judge Manuel Real. The order stopped banks from releasing the Marcos funds to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) based on a July 15 ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) declaring the money as ill-gotten and forfeiting it in favor of the Philippine government.

As this developed, Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said yesterday the SC will tackle en banc the injunction issued by Real, which assailed their decision to forfeit the $683-million Marcos funds in favor of the government.

Davide said the High Tribunal has not officially received a copy of Realís decision so the justices cannot act on it yet.

Real said the SC decision violated "elementary international sense of due process" as it deprived the Marcoses of the opportunity to present evidence and instead executed a summary judgment.

Real had earlier awarded $150 million from the Marcos estate to the human rights victims.

His injunction stated that any transfer of the Marcos funds without a satisfactory explanation to his court will be considered contempt of court.

"Any and all persons and banking institutions participating in such transfers, including but not limited to the Swiss banks, which were the original depository institutions and the depository institutions where the money is currently invested, are hereby notified that such transfer would be considered in contempt of this courtís injunction, and the court will have no alternative but to refer to the US Attorney for consideration," Real said.

The PCGG admitted that the PNB here in Manila is only a holder of the escrow account on paper because the funds are still in several investment companies abroad.

Former solicitor general Frank Chavez said the funds were invested in double companies in the US, Singapore and parts of Europe.

Davide, when asked what the Supreme Court intended to do regarding Realís injunction, told reporters, "You just wait for what the action of our Supreme Court shall do the moment we will be formally furnished with the copy of the ruling of Judge Manuel Real. I cannot make any opinion on that because it is a matter which really require the en banc opinion."

He refused to comment on whether Realís injunction is binding on the Philippines and has legal effects prejudicial to the Philippine government. But he recognized the orderís "impact" although it was issued only by a lower court in the United States.

"In the first place, Judge Real is only a district court judge. A district court is just equivalent to our regional trial court. So you could see the impact of any statement made by an inferior court," Davide said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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