Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rule on Succession: Marcos Siblings on Civil Case of Ill-Gotten Wealth

SC Reinstates Marcos Children as Defendants in Ill-Gotten Wealth Case; Scores Conduct of Prosecution by PCGG and OSG


The Supreme Court has reinstated the children of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and former first lady Imelda R. Marcos siblings – Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos-Manotoc, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., and Irene R. Marcos-Araneta – as defendants in the ill-gotten wealth case in connection with the Marcoses’ accumulation of at least P200 billion and use of the media networks IBC-13, BBC-2, and RPN-9 for the family’s personal benefit, among others, now pending before the Sandiganbayan. This even as it found wanting the conduct of the prosecution of the case by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

In a 27-page decision penned by Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, the Court’s Second Division partially granted the petition of the Republic to maintain the Marcos siblings as defendants in Civil Case No. 0002 before the anti-graft court. It also directed that a copy of the decision be furnished to the Office of the President (OP) so that it may look into the circumstances of this case and determine the liability, if any, of the lawyers of the OSG and the PCGG in the manner by which this case was handled in the Sandiganbayan.

When the Marcoses filed their respective Demurrers to Evidence to the charges, the Sandiganbayan, on December 6, 2005, issued the assailed resolution granting all the Demurrers to Evidence except the one filed by Imelda R. Marcos primarily because she had categorically admitted that she and her husband owned properties enumerated in the Complaint, while stating that these properties had been lawfully acquired. Aside from the P200 billion and use of media networks, the Marcoses were being sued for the alleged use of De Soleil Apparel for dollar salting and illegal acquisition and operation of the bus company Pantranco North Express, Inc. (Pantranco).

“While it was not proven that respondents conspired in accumulating ill-gotten wealth, they may be in possession, ownership, or control of such ill-gotten wealth, or the proceeds thereof as heirs of the Marcos couple. Thus, their lack of participation in any illegal act does not remove the character of the property as ill-gotten and, therefore, as rightfully belonging to the State,” explained the Court.

The Court further noted that under the rules of succession, the heirs instantaneously became co-owners of the Marcos properties upon the death of the former President. The property rights and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance of a person are transmitted to another through the decedent’s death. In this concept, nothing prevents the heirs from exercising their right to transfer or dispose of the properties that constitute their legitimines, even absent their declaration or absent the partition or the distribution of the estate.

“In sum, the Marcos siblings are maintained as respondents, because (1) the action pending before the Sandiganbayan is one that survives death, and, therefore, the rights to the estate must be duly protected; (2) they allegedly control, possess or own ill-gotten wealth, through their direct involvement in accumulating or acquiring such wealth may not have been proven,” the Court held.

In the same decision, the Court also bewailed the prosecution’s failure to adhere to something as basic as the best evidence rule which “raises serious doubts on the level and quality of effort given to the government’s cause.” The Court encouraged the OP, the OSG, and the PCGG to conduct the appropriate investigation and consequent action on this matter.

The Court noted that despite the prosecution’s having the expansive resources of government, the members of the prosecution did not even bother to provide any reason whatsoever for their failure to present the original documents or the witnesses to support the government’s claims. Even worse was presenting in evidence a photocopy of the transcript of stenographic notes (TSN) of the PCGG proceedings instead of the original, or a certified true copy of the original, which the prosecutors themselves should have had in their custody. “Such manner of legal practice deserves the reproof of this Court. We are constrained to call attention to this apparently serious failure to follow a most basic rule in law, given the special circumstance surrounding this case,” the Court held.

“The best evidence rule has been recognized as an evidentiary standard since the 18th century. For three centuries, it has been practiced as one of the most basic rules in law…Thus, it is deeply disturbing that the PCGG and the OSG – the very agencies sworn to protect the interest of the state and its people – could conduct their prosecution in the manner that they did. To emphasize, the PCGG is a highly specialized office focused on the recovery of ill-gotten wealth, while the OSG is the principal legal defender of the government. The lawyers of these government agencies are expected to be the best in the legal profession,” held the Court. (GR No. 171701, Republic v. Marcos-Manotoc, February 8, 2012)

Emphasis and links provided by Broker Rem Ramirez 0922.883.9308 broker.ramirez@yahoo.com.ph

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