Due process! Panganiban favors lifting of sequestration of assets linked to Marcos son-in-law but not registered in his name

For former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Jr., the sequestration of assets merely “attributed” to a son-in-law of dictator Ferdinand Marcos but not registered in his name should be lifted too.

Panganiban, in his February 10 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, called on the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to pursue the sequestration of ill-gotten wealth “in accordance with the rule of law and due process.”

“Otherwise, the crusaders for good government would be no different from the raiders of the nation’s treasures,” Panganiban said in his column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It may be noted that the Sandiganbayan Special 4th Division, in a January 14 resolution, lifted the writ of sequestration on only the properties “in the name” of Marcos’s son-in-law Gregorio Araneta III.

This was pursuant to the antigraft court’s 2006 nullification of the sequestration orders only of assets in Araneta’s name. This was upheld by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012 without modifications.

The only sequestered assets in Araneta’s name, which could be freed from sequestration, were Imexco Enterprise Inc. and Asialand Development Corp.

However, the assets sequestered by the PCGG on the ground that they “purportedly” belonged to Araneta under a different name would remain sequestered.

These assets include Northern Express Transport Inc., Phil. Semi-Conductor Devices Inc., Golden Needle Inc. and High Five Philippines Inc.

In his opinion, Panganiban said the 2006 resolution “should be understood liberally, not literally, to include those ‘attributed’ to him.” He cited three reasons.

First, the assets were assumed to be ill-gotten, but this reason no longer remained following Araneta’s exoneration in Civil Case Number 0002.

Second, the sequestered companies were not parties to the forfeiture case and had no personality to ask for the lifting of the sequestration order.

“Basic fairness demands their release after being under the yoke of PCGG custodianship for over 30 years, so they could function normally like other businesses,” Panganiban said.

Lastly, he said the companies and their stakeholders should be accorded due process, and the PCGG should apply for a new sequestration since the dismissal of Araneta’s alleged role no longer justified the current situation.

“While I sympathize and support the struggle to track, trace and recover criminally-acquired wealth, at the same time, I also believe that this effort must be pursued in accordance with the rule of law and due process,” he said.

Araneta recently filed a motion seeking the release of the aforementioned properties “attributed” to him, pointing out that “it would be improper for PCGG to still manage and preserve said properties and assets of corporations, when in fact the person to whom they linked such properties is already not included in the pending suit.”

The said motion remains pending before the Sandiganbayan.

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