Claimants of Palawan land in Marcos loot case to get separate trial

SEPARATE TRIAL. The Sandiganbayan orders a separate trial for a claim made on a Palawan property being pursued by the government in a Marcos loot case. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered a separate trial for the claim of Philippine Agri-Business Center Corporation (PABC) over two parcels of land in Busuanga, Palawan that are covered by a civil case regarding the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their cronies.

The Sandiganbayan 5th Division will hold separate hearings on PABC’s claims over two parcels of land in an 887.76-hectare property being pursued by the government. These are part of Civil Case No. 0024, one of the cases handled by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to sequester assets from the Marcoses.

The court said PABC’s claims are “distinct and separate” from the main issue.

“To grant a separate trial to PABC will not only avoid prejudice but will also promote justice and convenience that will ultimately result in a fair trial for all the parties involved in the case,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Civil Case No. 0024, filed in 1987 against former President Ferdinand Marcos, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and 9 others, seeks to return the Busuanga property to the government. It is still undergoing trial. (READ: Recovering Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth: After 30 years, what?)

In 1988, PABC came into the picture and said the PCGG’s case mistakenly covered two parcels of land that belonged to them.

In a partial summary judgment in 2009, the Sandiganbayan awarded the parcels of land to PABC. But the Supreme Court (SC) said in 2014 that a full-blown trial must be held first. (READ: Duterte: Marcos family to return some wealth to gov’t)

PABC argued that the lengthy proceedings have deprived them of use of lands that rightfully belong to them. PCGG said, however, that the lands belong to the government, based on Presidential Proclamation No. 1387 issued on February 13, 1975.

PABC’s titles were supposedly signed only in May 1975. (READ: Will PCGG withdraw Marcos loot cases? ‘It depends’)

In a resolution dated October 9, the Sandiganbayan 5th Division said PABC’s right to speedy resolution of its case matters more than the resources that the government will use to hold the separate trial.

Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega penned the resolution with concurrences from Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Reynaldo Cruz.


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