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Anti-graft court shuts down another forfeiture bid against the Marcoses

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by Allan Yves Briones

Less than two months after the Sandiganbayan dismissed a P102 billion forfeiture case against the Marcoses, another one bites the dust.

This time, involving the bigshots of Rustan’s Group of Company Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. and Gliceria Tantoco, for P1.052 billion and alleged unlawful behavior in the acquisition of such wealth.

In a 30-page decision by the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division, it held that the evidence presented by the prosecution was simply insufficient to hold a guilty verdict against the late dictator, his wife, Imelda, and his alleged cronies.

“The plaintiff was not able to prove by preponderance of evidence that defendants Tantocos, Tantoco-Pineda, Tantoco Jr., and Santiago by themselves and/or in unlawful concert with the defendants Marcoses collaborated in ‘schemes, devices, and stratagems’ to appropriate and conceal the ownership of illegally obtained assets,’” the decision stated.

In 1988, a complaint was filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) for Reconveyance, Reversion, Accounting and Damages seeking to recover “ill-gotten wealth” including various funds and properties.

These properties were claimed to have been acquired during the Marcos’ presidency, spanning 21 years from 1965 to 1986 including expensive works of art and jewelry, real estate properties in New York, Hawaii, Rome, Italy and Forbes park and various franchises and tax benefits.

Rustan businesses including their international marketing, mining and paper production arm benefitted from reported tax exemptions regarding importation.

During the trial, the court found that the prosecution presented only four witnesses, revealing the fact lawyers from the PCGG even failed to appear – noted as an “unjustified non-appearance” in 2006.

In addition, the court found that even the documents presented by the prosecution were less than satisfactory, being photocopies and unable to connect with witness testimonies.

“There is likewise insufficient evidence to prove that the defendants acted as dummies, nominees, and/or agents of defendants Marcoses in acquiring works of art, clothes, jewelry, or real estate worth billions of pesos” the court added.

Undersigned in the decision promulgated September 25 is Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, concurred by Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.

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