SC junks petition filed vs. alleged pyramiding operator

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, Aug. 24 (PNA) — The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a petition filed by intervenors in a forfeiture case against the bank assets of alleged pyramiding operators.

In a decision, the SC denied the petition for review on certiorari filed by respondents Rafael Manalo, Grace Oliva and Freida Rivera-Yap for being “moot and academic”.

Their petition assailed the decision dated May 21, 2009 and the resolution dated May 17, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which nullified and set aside the joint order dated Aug. 8, 2007 and the order dated Jan. 10, 2008 of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 24 in two civil cases, denying the separate motions for leave to intervene and admit attached answer-in-intervention filed by the respondents.

On July 18, 2003, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed a complaint for civil forfeiture before the Manila RTC.

In the civil forfeiture cases, the AMLC sought the forfeiture in its favor of certain deposits and government securities maintained in several bank accounts by the defendants, which were related to the unlawful activity of fraudulently accepting investments from the public, in violation of the Securities Regulation Code (SRC), as well as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

On Sept. 25 and 27, 2006, the respondents filed separate motions asserting that in a separate petition for involuntary insolvency proceedings, they were appointed as assignees of the properties of spouses Saturnino and Rosario Baladjay, as well as their conduit companies, who were impleaded as defendants in the civil forfeiture cases.

However, the SC said the essential issue for the Court’s resolution is “whether or not the CA erred in holding that the Manila RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the Joint Order dated August 8, 2007 and the Order dated January 10, 2008 which denied respondents’ separate motions for intervention in the civil forfeiture cases.”

The SC noted during “the pendency of the petition, the Manila RTC rendered a Decision on September 23, 2010…and, thereafter, a decision dated February 11, 2011 and Amended Decision dated May 9, 2011…all of which ordered the assets subject of the said cases forfeited in favor of the government. In view thereof, the Republic prayed that it be excused from filing the required reply, which the Court granted in a resolution dated June 3, 2013.”

“A case or issue is considered moot and academic when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that an adjudication of the case or a declaration on the issue would be of no practical value or use,” the SC said.

“In such instance, there is no actual substantial relief which a petitioner would be entitled to, and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition. Courts generally decline jurisdiction over such case or dismiss it on the ground of mootness, as a judgment in a case which presents a moot question can no longer be enforced,” it added.

“As the proceedings in the civil forfeiture cases from which the issue of intervention is merely an incident have already been duly concluded, no substantial relief can be granted to the Republic by resolving the instant petition,” the SC said. (PNA)