MANILA- The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the acquittal of former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos in 32 criminal cases over alleged unlawful foreign exchange accounts amounting to millions of dollars she shared with husband and late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in Geneva, Switzerland from 1973 to 1985.
The SC decision was made public on Friday, incidentally the 46th anniversary of the Marcos' regime's martial law.
In a 53-page decision, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the high court’s Third Division upheld two Court of Appeals (CA) rulings, dated February 28, 2008 and November 24, 2008, denying former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez’s petitions to reverse the acquittal of the former first lady.
The same court denied the government prosecution panel’s bid for the inhibition of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Presiding Judge Silvino Pampilo, Jr.
The Supreme Court said it found no grave abuse of discretion or error in the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling.
“This petition arose from what appears to have been such an important case for the government, which involves accountability for millions of pesos spirited away by respondent, filed in the lower court. Yet, it appears that the government's resolve to prosecute has been lackadaisical, to say the least. The prosecution and their witness appear to have requested several postponements on grounds which, to this court (SC), do not outweigh the grave public interest suggested by the various informations filed against respondent,” the SC decision stated.
“The lower court's liberality in granting the various continuances does not seem to have been met by the presentation of evidence with a depth and quality that would have shown the diligence and seriousness of the prosecution,” it added.
The RTC junked the inhibition bid for lack of basis in the accusation Pampilo was biased and prejudiced in scheduling hearings for Chavez’s testimony as prosecution witness. The CA, in affirming the lower court, explained that Pampilo's alleged bias "was not sufficiently substantiated.”
“It found that none of the grounds for mandatory inhibition of Judge Pampilo was present in this case. Further, there was insufficient showing of bias to substantiate Chavez's claim of bias on the part of Judge Pampilo. The Court of Appeals found that the prosecution's own acts delayed its presentation of evidence and that the prosecution had been granted a six (6)-month extension to complete its presentation o f evidence,” the SC said.
The appellate court also explained that the RTC acquittal ruling was handed down after the CA ruled on Chavez’s petition, which initially obtained an injunctive writ.
In acquitting Marcos and co-accused Hector Rivera, the RTC ruled in 2008 that they had to be absolved “on ground of reasonable doubt” due to the prosecution’s “various failures.”