Disini's cousin, a crucial witness to Marcos illegal wealth cases


Posted at Jul 28 2008 12:19 AM | Updated as of Jul 28 2008 08:19 AM

The cousin and lawyer of former Marcos crony, Herminio Disini, continues to fend off efforts of government lawyers to make him testify in the P51 billion ill-gotten wealth case against the late president.

Government lawyers have recently opposed Jesus Disini's latest motion before the anti-graft court to disregard his two affidavits that could discriminate Herminio Disini, one of former Ferdinand Marcos' most influential friends and reported broker for the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). Jesus Disini is the last witness of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which has been going after Marcos' loot in various cases that has been dragging for more than 20 years.

Jesus Disini is said to be a crucial witness for the PCGG and Office of the Solicitor General since he acquired a lot of insider information on the transactions and business operations of Herdis Group, Incwhere he was a company executive from 1971 to 1984. The PCGG alleged that Jesus Disini's cousin, Herminio Disini, pocketed at least $17 million in commissions from being a go-between for two American firms in securing Marcos' nod in the controversial nuclear power plant deal. Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Burns and Roe clinched the $2.1 billion construction and design contract for the plant.

The PCGG also alleged that Herdis is one of the channels Herminio Disini used to curry favors from Marcos and corner juicy deals related to the BNPP project even if these companies are new and inexperienced in the nuclear reactor business. PCGG is establishing that Marcos also had an interest in Disini's companies.

Jesus Disini had earlier failed in his attempts to get the Sandiganbayan First Division to quash subpoenas issued on him at the government’s request.

The State wants the him to authenticate his February 22, 1989 affidavit and his March 1, 1989 supplemental affidavit alleging that former President Ferdinand Marcos secretly owned two-thirds of Herdis Group, Inc., a private company put up by Herminio, who controlled the remaining one-third.
Jesus Disini claimed both affidavits contained ‘privileged communications’ between him and his cousin made during the course of an ‘attorney-client relationship’.

In the same documents, he said he was employed as a Herdis executive for 13 years dating back to 1971 and was senior vice president by the time he resigned in July 1984.
Disini claimed his position at Herdis made him ‘a key and trusted employee (which) necessarily included the availment of his legal knowledge and skills and seeking his advice as legal counsel’.
Assistant Solicitor Generals Marissa B. dela  Cruz-Galandines and Eric Remegio O. Panga and State Solicitor Marie Christine R. Nolasco-Jimenez argued Disini improperly invoked the attorney-client privilege.
“Information contained in the subject affidavits are not privileged inasmuch as the communications therein have for their purpose the commission of an unlawful act. They then partake of a nature of conspiracy or attempted conspiracy,” they pointed out.
Nullification of the affidavits, government lawyers said, would create a shield for a person who enlists the help of a legal counsel for the purpose of ‘concocting a crime’.

The BNPP was mothballed under the administration of President Corazon Aquino after investigations revealed hundreds of defects on the power plant structure. Foreign debts related to BNPP is a painful and expensive reminder of the Marcos regime. It costs Filipino taxpayers about $170,000 a day in interest and accounts for about five percent of the country's total debt.