PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FORMER First Lady Imelda Marcos has backed out from testifying against businessman Lucio Tan to reclaim what she says are the multi-billion assets that the tycoon now holds but are really owned by her husband, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Mrs. Marcos failed to appear at the Sandiganbayan on July 2, her birthday, when Presiding Justice Maria Cristina Cortez-Estrada announced she was in Leyte and would not be able to testify due to health reasons.
Mrs. Marcos was supposed to testify last week and this week to corroborate her son’s claims that the Marcoses owned the companies now being run by Tan and other former Marcos cronies.
The companies being claimed by the Marcoses include Foremost Farms, Asia Brewery, Fortune Tobacco, Allied Banking Corp. and Shareholdings Corp.
“I understand why Imelda refuses to testify. She is scared,” said Lucio Tan’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza.
“Her health is not as good as before. She is putting her life on the line.”
But a special counsel of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the agency tasked to go after ill-gotten wealth, said Mrs. Marcos must be compelled to testify against Tan.
She must corroborate the testimony of her son, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Catalino Generillo said.
“The testimony of Imelda is important because it would strengthen the case of the government,” Generillo said.
He said the late Marcos entrusted his companies to Tan as evidenced by their exchanges of memorandums and Marcos’ issuance of presidential decrees and government-guarante ed loans in favor of Tan’s companies.
Mrs. Marcos should reconsider her decision in light of the death on June 26 of another respondent to the case, Panfilo Domingo, president of the state-run Philippine National Bank in the Marcos years, Generillo said.
He said Domingo was accused of conniving with the late dictator in granting Tan several government-guarante ed loans with the PNB. Tan acquired the bank after Marcos was deposed.
But Mendoza said Mrs. Marcos’ testimony, like her son’s, should be treated as hearsay.
He said Mrs. Marcos was scared to testify because she would have to admit to the crime of plunder if it was shown that the wealth being contested was ill-gotten.
When Marcos Jr. and his father bought shares from Tan’s companies, they should have verified that the seller indeed owned those companies, Mendoza said.
“When they bought the shares, they found that Tan owned the companies that were not stolen from the government. The principal predicate is, the assets must form part of the vast resources of the government. What was owned by Lucio Tan was not ill-gotten,” Mendoza said.