Sandiganbayan orders forfeiture of artworks amassed by Marcoses

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 07:04 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan on Thursday ordered the forfeiture of multi-million worth of paintings amassed by former President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.

In the partial judgment on Civil Case No. 0141, the anti-graft court declared that the artworks, estimated to be worth $24.325 million at the time they were acquired, be listed as missing by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Grandma Moses paintings and artworks listed in "A Report on the Metropolitan Museum of Manila's Art Collection" and others as forfeited in favor of the government.

The court ordered the Marcoses to cease and desist from disposing, transferring and selling any of the artworks, as well as render an accounting of the artworks they still possess and surrender them or divulge their current location. The order covered artworks purchased from 1972 to 1985.

Unlike the other Sandiganbayan divisions which rendered favorable decisions for the Marcoses recently on account of photocopied evidence, the Special 1st Division took exception to the Best Evidence Rule under the Rules of Court.

The court said it was not unmindful of the fact that some of the evidence were not originals.

“In the present case, the bulk of documents offered by petitioner are on file with the PCGG since 1986. These are papers which they were able to collect during their investigation,” the court said in the judgment penned by Division Chairperson Efren Dela Cruz, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Oscar Herrera.

Among the 110 artworks in the PCGG list are those of Francis Bacon, Edouard Manet, Francisco de Goya, Paul Gobillard, and Paul Cezanne.

The Metropolitan Museum list include a collection of Italian master, Russian Icons, Yugoslavian Naifs, Russian Lacquerware, Italian Mosaics.

The court noted that from gallery documents, invoices, receipts, sales reports, and even correspondences to Imelda or her representative, the government has established a prima facie presumption that the paintings acquired were ill-gotten, as the total value is manifestly disproportionate to the Marcoses’ lawful income.

The court added that lawful income of the Marcos couple during their incumbency as public officials were determined by the Supreme Court in the Swiss Deposits case of the Marcoses at $304,372.42 since they did not file any Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as required by law.

“It may not be amiss to point out that respondents failed to present a single document to substantiate how the funds used to purchase the artworks were acquired lawfully,” the court said.

In the opposition filed by the estate of Ferdinand Marcos, among the arguments made was forum-shopping by the government as civil and criminal suits in the United States under the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act were filed.

The court noted that the former First Lady was acquitted of the criminal RICO case but it is unclear as to what became of the civil cases.

“It is elementary rule that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws,” the court said.