• High Court upholds forfeiture of $40-M Arelma assets

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    The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality in the forfeiture of the almost $40-million Arelma assets of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

    The High Court has affirmed a Sandiganbayan decision issued in 2009 that the Arelma assets worth $40 million are owned by the Republic of the Philippines and not by the heirs or the estate of the late strongman.

    A six-page resolution of the SC Second Division junked the appeal of the Marcos family by stating that former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos failed to raise new issues to warrant a reversal of its 2012 decision.

    “We agree with the view of the Office of the Solicitor General…that the issue has already been raised and exhaustively discussed in our April 2012 ruling,” the tribunal said.

    The 2012 decision of the SC penned by then Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ruled that “all assets, properties, and funds belonging to Arelma, S.A., with an estimated aggregate amount of $ 3,369,975 as of 1983, plus all interests and all other income that accrued thereon, until the time or specific day that all money or monies are released and/or transferred to the possession of the Republic of the Philippines, are hereby forfeited in favor of Respondent Republic of the Philippines.”

    The republic, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), filed a petition for forfeiture before the Sandiganbayan seeking the declaration of Swiss bank accounts totaling $356 million (now $658 million), and two Treasury notes worth $25 million and $5 million, as ill-gotten wealth.

    The Swiss accounts, previously held by five groups of foreign foundations, were deposited in escrow with the Philippine National Bank (PNB), while the Treasury notes were frozen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

    The government also sought the forfeiture of the assets of dummy corporations and entities established by nominees of the Marcos couple, as well as real and personal properties manifestly out of proportion to the spouses’ lawful income.

    This claim was based on evidence collated by the PCGG with the assistance of the United States justice department and the Swiss Federal Police Department.

    The petition for forfeiture described among others, a corporate entity by the name “Arelma Inc.,” which maintained an account and portfolio in Merrill Lynch, New York, and which was purportedly organized to hide the ill-gotten wealth.
    PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista welcomed the SC decision.

    “Our Supreme Court emphasized that the anti-graft court found that the totality of assets and properties acquired by the Marcos spouses was manifestly and grossly disproportionate to their aggregate salaries as public officials, and that petitioners were unable to overturn the prima facie presumption of ill-gotten wealth, pursuant to Section 2 of Republic Act 1379,” Bautista said in a statement.

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