MARCOSES ASK SUPREME COURT TO REVERSE RULING ON ESCROW ACCOUNT

Manila, August 6, 2003 (STAR) By Aurea Calica The Marcos family asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to set aside its July 15 decision forfeiting in favor of the government their $658-million Swiss bank deposits for being ill-gotten, citing that the ruling violated their right to due process.

The money in the Swiss bank deposits are now held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank.

The funds were frozen by the Swiss government after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled in a bloodless popular revolt in 1986, and transferred to the escrow account in 1998. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in September 1989.

The funds are believed to form part of a huge fortune allegedly ransacked by Marcos during his 20-year rule. Some estimates have placed the total fortune at about $10 billion, part of it stashed in bank accounts overseas.

In two separate motions for reconsideration, Imelda Marcos and children Maria Imelda, Ferdinand Jr. and Irene Araneta said the High Court should remand the case to the Sandiganbayan for a trial so they could present evidence that they acquired the funds lawfully.

They added the Sandiganbayan’s Jan. 31, 2002 resolution should be reinstated as this denied the government’s claim to the money through a summary judgment and ordered the conduct of further proceedings to give the respondents the chance to defend themselves.

The Marcoses said the case was criminal in nature since forfeiture proceedings are covered under Republic Act (RA) 1379 or the law on ill-gotten wealth.

"Respondent (Imelda Marcos) is certainly not asking for preferential treatment from this Honorable Court. She has but one entreaty: that she and her family be afforded due process as befits every man, from the most miserable hobo on the streets, to a former President of the Republic," said the Marcoses in their 31-page motion.

In another motion filed by Araneta, the Marcoses said the summary judgment issued by the High Court was unwarranted since their case was disputed and there were issues of fact that had to be addressed.

"Having in her favor the presumption of innocence, it is the responsibility of the Republic to establish respondent’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Conviction, or in this case, forfeiture of the subject property will depend not on the weakness of the defense but on the strength of the prosecution," the Marcoses said in the motion.

The SC ruled that since the total amount of the Swiss deposits was considerably out of proportion to the known lawful income of the Marcoses, the presumption that the dollar deposits were unlawfully acquired was duly established in accordance with the procedure set by Republic Act 1379.

But the Marcoses said the earnings of their family should be considered and the money would have to be proven ill-gotten by the government through evidence.

"The Republic failed to submit one iota of evidence as to when the alleged ill-gotten funds were acquired," the Marcoses said.

"In the instant case, the bare allegations contained in the complaint, together with the documents attached thereto, were accepted as ‘gospel truth’ without undergoing authentication process," they noted.

The Marcoses pointed out all the documents submitted by the government were photocopies, which were supposed to be inadmissible as evidence.

They said the government based their arguments only on alleged judicial admission of the Marcoses of the existence and ownership of the Swiss funds acquired during the incumbency of the late dictator.

"The prosecution’s attempt to camouflage its utter lack of evidence with a motion for summary judgment was swallowed hook-line-and-sinker, including its misleading conclusion that the alleged admissions of ownership made by respondent automatically established the ill-gotten character of the properties in question," the Marcoses said.

The Marcoses also said the Supreme Court’s decision made a categorical statement that the late president engaged in the management of business, such as the administration of foundations, to accumulate funds.

Pending the resolution of the motions for reconsideration, the government earlier asked the Supreme Court to order the release of the money for the benefit of the country’s agrarian reform program and human rights victims.

The Office of the Solicitor General also said in its 11-page motion for execution that those billions of pesos would provide a relief for the country’s huge budget deficit.

In a 100-page decision penned by Justice Renato Corona, the Supreme Court said the Marcoses failed to justify that they lawfully acquired the deposits that reached the estimated aggregate amount of $658,175,373.60 as of Jan. 31, 2002.

Voting 12-0 with one abstention, the Court said the money, plus interest, should be forfeited in favor of the government in accordance with Section 6 of RA 1379.

The funds were previously held in Swiss banks under various foreign foundations like Azio-Verso-Vibur Foundation; Xandy-Wintrop; Charis-Scolari-Valamo-Spinus-Avertina Foundation; Trinidad-Rayby-Palmy Foundation; and Maler Foundation.

Just after the Swiss account funds were forfeited in favor of the government, Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said that what really caused the Supreme Court to rule that the Swiss accounts belong to the government is that weak lawyers had given the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth away.

Marcelo said the Marcos lawyers eventually fell into their own trap when they denied their clients have acquired the Swiss deposits unlawfully but admitted owning them, only to end up failing to make a justification on how such wealth was accumulated during the late strongman’s 20-year reign.

He noted that it would have been another story if the Marcoses were able to justify how they acquired the Swiss accounts.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling on the forfeiture of the Swiss deposits, the Ombudsman said he does not see any reason why former first lady Imelda Marcos will not be found guilty in the graft case now pending before the Sandiganbayan.

"Imelda will be convicted in the end because the evidence is very strong. The SC ruling strengthens the government case against the Marcoses," he said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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