COURT JUNKS ANOTHER MARCOS WEALTH CASE; Co-respondents are alleged cronies hotelier Enriquez family members

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

QUEZON CITY – Another ill-gotten wealth case against the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. and former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos and some alleged cronies has been dismissed.

This as the Sandiganbayan junked an ill-gotten wealth case filed against the Marcos couple and alleged cronies, including the hotelier Enriquez family who owned and operated the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City, Silahis Hotel (Grand Hotel) along Roxas boulevard, the Philippine Village Hotel at the airport complex, the Puerto Azul Resort Hotel and Golf Course in Cavite, among others, for lack of evidence.

It was alleged that the hotels and resort and other properties and stocks appraised then at P581.3 million were illegally acquired during the Marcos martial law regime.

In its 45-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan second division stated that the prosecution failed to present proof to back charges that the properties and assets of the Enriquez family in question were ill-gotten. It was the second ruling by the graft court dismissing the case.

The case was one of more than 40 ill-gotten wealth cases filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) against the Marcoses in 1987.

The Sandiganbayan had earlier dismissed several wealth forfeiture cases against the Marcos family and their cronies, citing insufficiency of evidence and lack of credible witnesses.

Last Feb. 21, the court’s Fifth Division dismissed Civil Case 0024, which sought to recover in favor of the government several land properties in Busuanga, Palawan with total estimated area of 7,000 hectares, as well as shares in several corporations, including Lianga Bay Logging Co., Yulo King Ranch, Philippine Integrated Meat Corp. and the PIMECO Marketing Corp.

Also earlier dismissed by the Sandiganbayan were Civil Cases 0002, 0007, 0008 and 0034 which sought to recover from the Marcos family ill-gotten wealth amounting P200 billion, P267.371 million, P1.052 billion and P102 billion, respectively.

The Marcoses’ co-respondents in Civil Case 0014 were hoteliers husband and wife Modesto Enriquez and Trinidad Diaz-Enriquez, their son-in-law Dr. Rebecco Panlilio and wife Erlinda Enriquez-Panlilio and Leandro Enriquez. Also co-respondents were Don Ferry, Roman Cruz Jr., and Gregorio Castillo.

The elder Enriquez couple, both teachers, actually started building their hotel, restaurant and resort empire before the war with their D & E Coffee Shop along Escolta Avenue in Manila which expanded into the D & E Restaurant with catering service in Quezon avenue and Panay avenue in Quezon City which were known for authentic and savory Filipino food.

“All told, absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten wealth, the court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury,” stated the decision penned by Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio and concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Edgardo Caldona.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his sisters, Sen. Imelda Imee Marcos and Irene Marcos-Araneta, were impleaded in the case as substitute defendants and heirs of Marcos Sr. while their mother Imelda was among the original defendants.

Based on the information of the case, the Panlilio and Enriquez spouses acted as dummies of Marcos Sr. and his wife in acquiring ownership or control of 11 corporations – Ternate Development Corp., Monte Sol Development Corp., Olas del Mar Development Corp., Philroad Construction Corp., Ocean Villas Condominium Corp., Fantasia Filipina Resort Inc., Sulo Dobbs, Food Services Inc., Philippine Village Hotel Inc., Puerto Azul Beach and Country Club Inc., Silahis International Hotel Inc. and Hotel Properties Inc.

The PCGG said the Panlilios and Enriquezes were also extended unreasonable loans and financial assistance with terms disadvantageous to the government.

In its decision, however, the Second Division said the sole witness presented by the PCGG – its records custodian Maria Lourdes Magno – does not have personal knowledge of the execution, authenticity and veracity of the documentary evidence presented during the trial, including the subject corporations’ bank records, Securities and Exchange Commission documents, deeds of sale, deeds of assignment and transfer of certificate of titles of the subject properties.

Thus, Magno’s testimony, as well as the PCGG’s documentary exhibits that she testified on, were all considered “hearsay evidence,” according to the Second Division.

“(Magno) is merely in possession of the subject documents in view of her position as records custodian of PCGG. Thus, the documents presented by the plaintiff lack basis, and witness Magno’s testimony on this point could not be taken at face value,” the Second Division said.

Furthermore, the court said the bulk of the documents presented by the PCGG were mere photocopies, a majority of which were “barely readable.”

The court added that the PCGG also failed to prove that the original documents existed or were even executed.

“The plaintiff (PCGG) did not even attempt to provide a plausible reason why the originals were not presented, neither did the plaintiff present any compelling ground why the court should admit the aforementioned documents as secondary evidence absent the testimony of the witnesses who had executed them,” the Second Division said.

Lastly, the court said none of the presented documents would show that the Marcos spouses “had any interest or control over the subject corporations.”

“Verily, nothing in these documents would show that the said corporations or the amounts paid in the stocks of the said corporations came from the government nor acquired by them (co-defendants) through illegal means or through their relationship with the Marcoses,” the court added.

A total of 43 civil forfeiture cases were filed by the PCGG before the Sandiganbayan against the Marcos family and their cronies in 1987, a year after Marcos Sr.’s ouster through the EDSA people power revolution.

To date, more than a dozen of the cases remain pending in various divisions of the anti-graft court, while more than 20 have already been dismissed.

Three forfeiture cases, so far, have been ruled in favor of the government, including those involving the P83-billion assets acquired through the Coconut Industry Investment Fund or the coco-levy, the Marcos family’s jewelry collections with an assessed value of $110,055 to $153,089, as well as their artworks and painting collections worth $24.325 million and shares of stocks in three corporations – Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc., Polygon Investors and Managers Inc. and Aerocom Investors and Managers Inc.