THE Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) asked the Sandiganbayan to forfeit the $24 million or P1.13 billion worth of art collection of the Marcos family in favor of the government on the ground that these were ill-gotten.
Assistant Solicitor General John Emmanuel Madamba and senior state solicitor Jennifer Fandialan-Legaspi told the Sandiganbayan’s Special First Division that the anti-graft court should rule in favor of the government’s motion for partial summary judgment since former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos failed to file her comment or opposition to the motion despite the extension granted by the anti-graft court.
The artworks include 152 paintings with an estimated value of $11.84 million; 27 paintings and sculptures reportedly found in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila worth $548,445.48; and 12 paintings by American artist Anna Mary “Grandma Moses” Robertson with a value of $372,000.
The Sandiganbayan first ordered Imelda and her children, as representatives of the estate of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, to file their opposition on March 17, but Mrs. Marcos asked the court for more time so that she can file the opposition by May 14—an extension granted by the Sandiganbayan.
But a day before May 14, Mrs. Marcos again asked for another extension until May 29, but she still failed to file the comment on the said date.
“To date, no comment/opposition has been filed by respondent Imelda Marcos. Therefore, she is deemed to have waived her right to file. More importantly, she is deemed to have admitted the facts narrated in the motion,” government lawyers said.
They noted that the art collection is ill-gotten based on the Supreme Court ruling that the combined lawful income of the Marcos couple from 1966 to 1989 is $304,372.43.
“The court should declare the listed paintings as unlawfully acquired and order them forfeited in favor of the State, as well as issue a directive for the Marcos family not to dispose of the said artworks, to surrender all the identified paintings, divulge their location, and to authorize court officers and police authorities to ‘seize and secure’ the said assets wherever they may be found,” the government lawyers said.
“Respondent Imelda’s unqualified admission of the factual allegations …is binding on respondent [Marcos] estate as an admission by a partner, privy, and conspirator,” they added.
Unlike their mother, the Marcos children filed an opposition and challenged the government’s forfeiture move by citing that it is only tantamount to forum-shopping since the three artworks being sought for forfeiture were already covered by the 1988 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) cases filed against the Marcos couple and seven others before a court in New York.
The OSG, however, countered that the RICO cases do not prevent the Philippine government from seeking the forfeiture of the three artworks because the parties involved, the rights being asserted and the relief prayed for in the RICO case and the pending motion in the Sandiganbayan are different.
“The RICO cases filed against respondent Imelda Marcos are an entirely different story. The 1988 RICO case pertains to a criminal trial in the United States for US offenses,” the OSG said.
“In contrast, the instant petition [before the Sandiganbayan]seeks to forfeit property which appears to be manifestly out of proportion to the salary and other income of respondents,” it added.