SC affirms forfeiture of Marcoses' Arelma stake

Posted at 04/01/14 7:21 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality on the forfeiture, in favor of the Republic of the Philippines, of all the assets of Arelma S.A., an entity created by the late President Ferdinand Marcos purportedly to hide ill-gotten wealth.

The high court, in a 6-page resolution dated March 12, junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Imelda Marcos, on behalf of the late President, and affirmed its April 25, 2012 decision which held that "[a]ll 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 accrued thereon" be forfeited in favor of government when these assets are transferred to the possession of the Republic of the Philippines.

The case stems from a petition for forfeiture filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) with the Sandiganbayan on Dec. 17, 1991 involving $356 million ($658 million as of the April 2012 SC ruling), and two treasury notes worth $25 million and $5 million, allegedly illegally amassed by the Marcoses.

The PCGG petition also sought the forfeiture of the assets of alleged dummy corporations and entities established by the Marcoses, as well as real properties and personal properties obtained by the couple "manifestly out of proportion" to their lawful income.

Arelma, which maintained an account and portfolio in Merrill Lynch, New York, was described by the PCGG in the petition as among entities purportedly organized by the Marcoses for "hiding ill-gotten wealth."

The PCGG stressed that the Marcoses could not have afforded to acquire Arelma because their combined lawful income for the period 1966 to 1986, or in the two decades they were in power, was only P2,319,583 or
$ 304,372, or only 9% of the entire Arelma fund of $3.4 million in 1983.

The PCGG obtained a favorable ruling from the Sandiganbayan on April 2, 2009; the anti-graft court declared all assets and properties of Arelma, S.A. forfeited in favor of the government.

The Marcoses filed an appeal with the SC to seek a reversal of the Sandiganbayan ruling.

In its 2012 decision, the high court stressed that "in determining whether the presumption of ill-gotten wealth should be applied, the relevant period is incumbency, or the period in which the public officer served in that position."

"The amount of the public officer's salary and lawful income is compared against any property or amount required for that same period," the high court said.

In its final ruling, the high court said the arguments the Marcoses raised in their MR were already passed upon in the 2012 decision.

Marcos incorporated Arelma, S.A. under Panamanian law in 1972, he was already President then; in 2000, the account had grown to $35 million.