LAWYERS of businessman Lucio Tan took only 30 minutes on Tuesday to complete their presentation of evidence in the forfeiture case filed by the government against Tan’s assets before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.
Estelito Mendoza, lead counsel for Tan, did not present the testimony of any witness saying all they needed to prove in court was the fact that Tan did not use even a single centavo of public funds in building up his businesses.
Mendoza was assisted by Atty. Orlando Santiago.
Tan’s lawyers had their documentary evidence pre-marked before the clerk of court last month to speed up proceedings and simply submitted a formal offer of exhibits during the hearing yesterday morning.
"Government lawyers took 23 years building their case but in the end they proved nothing. Today as you see, we needed less than 30 minutes. The evidence we presented would show that the shares of stocks in all the defendant companies were paid for by Mr. Tan from his own pockets. No public fund was involved. We also included documents in support of our counter-claim, although we really have no intention of collecting from the government," Mendoza told reporters.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government is claiming 60 percent of Tan’s holdings in his companies, including Fortune Tobacco Corp., Asia Brewery, Allied Banking Corp., Foremost Farms, Himmel Industries, Grandspan Development Corp., Silangan Holdings, Dominium Realty and Construction Corp. and Shareholdings Inc. in behalf of the state.
In its complaint, the PCGG alleged that Tan was simply holding the disputed assets in trust for former President Ferdinand Marcos.
After filing the case in July 1987, the PCGG seized control of Tan’s companies and continued to do so until 2006 when the Sandiganbayan nullified the writs of sequestration on Allied Banking Corp., Fortune Tobacco., Foremost Farms and Shareholdings Inc.
The court ruled the writs had no basis because there was no prima facie proof that any of Tan’s assets were ill-gotten.
Mendoza reiterated Tan’s appeal to the court to resolve the case speedily, noting that it has been pending for more than two decades.
"I shall not get tired of pointing out that this case was initiated in 1987 – 23 years ago. It has caused tremendous damage to the defendants," he pointed out.
Assistant solicitor general Mauricia Dinopol had tried to postpone the defense presentation of evidence. She asked the court’s permission to present the testimony of additional witnesses to respond to objections being raised by the defendants against government exhibits. Among the names she mentioned were former Budget Minister Jaime Laya, and banker Joselito Yujuico whose family used to own Genbank, the forerunner of Allied Bank.
She said they are also hoping to present former First Lady Imelda Marcos with whom they are still negotiating her possible testimony.
Mendoza, however, opposed the deferment, saying that government had been given every opportunity to build its case until the court ordered the termination of its presentation in April 2009.
Associate Justice Roland Jurado, Fifth Division chairman, after consultation with the two other members of the bench, ruled to allow Tan to proceed with his presentation of evidence even as the court agreed to consider the government’s motion. – Peter J.G. Tabingo