Marcoses lose Paoay properties

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 24 2014 04:42 AM | Updated as of Apr 25 2014 02:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Marcos family have lost their claim to a 57.68-hectare resort in Barangay Suba, Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

In a decision, the Sandiganbayan voided a 1978 lease agreement between then President Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

The anti-graft court’s First Division ruled that Marcos did not legally own the property because the area covered by the lease agreement was “inalienable public domain,” being part of a national park.

“The Paoay Lake and lands within one kilometer from its water line... was declared to be a national park and therefore considered public land. These were therefore outside the commerce of man,” read the decision.

The ruling covers some 154 lots under the lease contract between Marcos and the PTA, including those which are already covered by approved patents to his children and grandchildren.

The Sandiganbayan advised the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to act promptly to recover the properties through the Land Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Section 101 of the Public Land Act provides a remedy whereby lands of the public domain fraudulently awarded to the applicant may be recovered or reverted back to its original owner, the government,” read the decision. “An action for reversion has to be instituted by the Solicitor General, in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.”

The Sandiganbayan dismissed Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s argument that the Paoay properties are not among his family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth since it was never sequestered by the government.

“It does not matter that the PCGG never sequestered the property,” read the decision. “What matters is that the petition alleges that the former president used all his powers and influence to appropriate to himself all the lots covered by the lease with scanty claims of ownership.

“The Marcos heirs have concentrated their free patent applications on the lots where most of the improvements are situated and based on this alone, the lease contract should be declared void.”

Based on the records, some 79 lots are already under free patents or have pending free patent applications by Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her children, the Sandiganbayan said.

The Paoay properties covered by the Sandiganbayan decision include the Malacaang Ti Amianan, Maharlika Hall building, Suba Sports Complex, the Old Motor Pool, swimming pools, a tennis court and an 18-hole golf course, all of which are being placed under control of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

Four years ago, the PCGG filed a case in the Sandiganbayan to reclaim the property for the government.