(STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - An official of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) accused yesterday the Filipino and American counsels of the 10,000 human rights victims of martial law of engaging in black propaganda to derail government efforts to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their associates.

PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede challenged to a public debate lawyers Rod Domingo and Robert Swift, and former lawmaker Loretta Rosales after they questioned the PCGG’s foreign travel expenses of about $1 million.

“I challenge Atty. Rod Domingo, American lawyer Robert Swift and Ms. Etta Rosales to a public debate on the issue of human rights victims’ compensation, sovereign immunity and PCGG’s active pursuit of foreign cases and ill-gotten wealth abroad,” he said.

“Swift and company are angry because they lost. And they are engaging in disinformation and black propaganda against PCGG and OSG (Office of the Solicitor General).”

The US Supreme Court has upheld the government’s claim over the ill-gotten Marcos wealth.

Abcede said the lawyers and Rosales were criticizing their use of the $34-million foreign litigation fund to prevent the efforts of the PCGG and OSG to pursue the pending legal cases for the recovery of ill-gotten Marcos wealth abroad.

If the PCGG and OSG failed to pursue the cases, the lawyers of the human rights victims would win the cases and get their hands on the ill-gotten Marcos wealth, he added.

Abcede warned that a win by Swift and Domingo would not necessarily benefit their clients, claiming that the lawyers would first collect their legal fees.

Abcede said Swift and Domingo were earlier rewarded some $1.425 million in proceeds from the sale of the Marcoses’ Makiki Heights property in Hawaii, an armored Mercedes-Benz limousine and the Pablo Picasso painting “Head of a Woman” to settle a portion of the $2-billion class suit award handed them by Hawaii District Court judge Manuel Real in 1995.

Not a single centavo from this initial award went to the human rights victims since it was collected by Swift and Domingo to settle pending legal fees, he added.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered the Sandiganbayan to create a special division to hear the PCGG’s petition to allow forfeiture of a $37-million account set-up by President Marcos in 1972.

The SC ordered the special division to be comprised of Justice Norberto Geraldez as chairman and Justices Efren de la Cruz and Teresita Diaz-Baldos as members.

In a letter to Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Sept. 29, 2008, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Diosdado Peralta asked the SC’s advice following the inhibition of all chairpersons of the anti-graft court’s five divisions from hearing the case.

The case was assigned to Peralta in November 2007 when he was still a senior member of the First Division.

Peralta said based on records of the case, he learned that his wife, then an assistant solicitor general, had actively prosecuted the case before the Sandiganbayan and was a signatory in most of the major pleadings.

With the discovery, Peralta inhibited himself from the case and requested that it be re-raffled to the court’s other division.

It was re-raffled to the Second Division.

However, on May 5, 2008, Sandiganbayan Justice Edilberto Sandoval, the Second Division chairman, informed Peralta that he too was inhibiting from the case as one of the parties involved was responsible for his appointment as a regional trial court judge in Oriental Mindoro.

The case was re-raffled to the Fifth Division chaired by Justice Cristina Estrada, who also inhibited herself on grounds that she had worked in Malacańang during the Marcos administration. – With Mike Frialde

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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