‘Never again’: Sandiganbayan forfeits Marcos’s P2.7B wealth from illegally acquired telecom shares
Saying dictator Ferdinand Marcos betrayed public trust by using dummies, the Sandiganbayan has forfeited in favor of the government some P2.75-billion worth of illegally-acquired shares in a telecommunications company.
In a recent 142-page decision, the court’s 3rd Division declared the shares of cronies Jose Africa and Manuel Nieto in Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. (ETPI) to be “ill-gotten wealth of defendant Ferdinand Marcos.”
“Defendant Marcos, then the highest elected public officer of the Republic, betrayed the trust reposed on him by the Filipino people when he resorted to this insidious scheme,” read the decision penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
“Hence, [the shares] should be reverted/reconveyed to the Republic of the Philippines,” it added.
The decision would also affect P68.17-million shares transferred by Nieto to ISM Communications Corporation in July 2005.
Aside from the shares, the court ordered Africa, Nieto and their legal heirs to surrender to the government all stock and cash dividends and interest earned from the illegally-acquired shares.
They were also ordered to pay P1 million in exemplary damages, which the court said was meant to “send the clear and unequivocal signal best expressed in the pithy but immutable phrase, ‘never again.'”
According to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the Marcos couple and their cronies conspired to “monopolize the telecommunications industry” in a scheme to manipulate the purchase of the shares of EPTI’s erstwhile major stockholder, London-based Cable and Wireless Limited.
The dictator “[took] advantage of his powers as President… [and] embarked upon a systematic plan to accumulate ill-gotten wealth using ETPI,” the PCGG said. He then used Nieto and Africa to enter into “highly unconscionable terms and conditions” to purchase the stockholding.
On the flip side, the court dismissed the government’s claims against the dictator’s widow Imelda and son Ferdinand Jr., as well as former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, over alleged excessive income that were not necessarily part of the ETPI shares.
It cited the “failure of the Republic to establish preponderance of evidence against them,” adding that
Likewise, it dismissed the counterclaims of Imelda, Bongbong, Enrile, Nieto and Africa seeking moral and exemplary damages from the government.