Madrigals fight for billions left by aunt

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SENATOR Jamby Madrigal accused her relatives yesterday of making it appear that her late billionaire aunt was not true to her word by forging her will to make it appear that she did not leave anything to the foundation she established for the poor in 1997.

Madrigal said her aunt, Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal-Collantes, had made it known years ago that most of her wealth would go to the Consuelo Madrigal Foundation, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the poor.

“My aunt is not a liar. In 2006, she was telling the people that she would give her estate to the foundation. We were just surprised that not a single centavo was left to the foundation,” Madrigal told reporters outside the courtroom of Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148.

“The will we’re disputing is not the original will of my aunt. These are not her wishes. Kung masusunod lang ang kapatid at pinsan ko, lumalabas na pinalalabas nila na masama ang tita ko at walang isang salita sa mahihirap [If we go by what my sister and cousin says, it would appear my aunt was evil and that she did not keep her word to the poor],” she added, referring to her elder sister Susana and cousin Gizela Gonzales-Montinola, two of the named heirs in Collantes’ will.

Accompanied by her lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., Madrigal attended yesterday’s hearing on the motion she filed last week seeking to suspend the distribution of her aunt’s estate because, according to the senator, the document had been forged.

But Aileen Lerma, one of the collaborating counsels for the two executors of the will, said the senator could no longer question the execution and validity of the will since the court had already declared it authentic in September 2006.

Collantes, she said, executed her will on March 22, 2006, and filed a petition for probate five days later.

“The court ruled that she [Collantes] was of sound and disposing mind, and that she duly and freely executed her will without duress, fraud and undue influence. Under the law, questions on the validity of her will should have been filed before the judgment,” Lerma read from a prepared statement.

She said the only remaining action was to distribute the estate in accordance with Collantes’ will.

“Only those named in her will have the right to benefit. Doña Chito’s signature in her will was not forged. These are her wishes. They should be respected,” Lerma added.

Madrigal said she opposed the execution of the will because those who were after her aunt’s fortune had committed “many crimes.”

“I went here to seek justice for my aunt. I’m seeing many crimes here, especially falsification of the testament… and my aunt’s forged signature,” she said.

Insisting that she was not after the money, Madrigal said this inheritance case only showed how rich people stole from the poor.

“This is a crime they committed against the poor, those millions who could have benefited from the foundation. Why don’t rich people get jailed when they steal from the poor?” she said.

She also pointed out the alleged conflict of interest among the executors of the will and their lawyers from Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and Delos Reyes Angeles law office.

She said Aurelio Montinola III, the president of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, was the husband of her cousin Gizela, who is a partner in the law office.

“Many mysteries have happened when my aunt died. They should answer that in court. The crime has been committed, they should pay,” Madrigal said.

She stressed that her aunt could not have named lawyer Perry Pe and Montinola the executors of her will.

“The will that they presented in court for probate was not the will left by Doña Chito. You don’t need to be a handwriting expert to see that her signature was faked,” Madrigal’s lawyer said.

Collantes, 88, died on March 24 in her North Forbes Park residence in Makati. She has no child with her husband, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Manuel Collantes.

Collantes left her fortune to her husband, Madrigal’s elder sister Susana, grandnephew Vicente Gustav Warns, and a niece, Gizela Gonzales-Montinola. She left nothing to her senator-niece.