Lucio Tan’s brother loses plea to turn state witness

Lucio Tan’s brother loses plea to turn state witness
by Macon Ramos-Araneta

THE Sandiganbayan on Thursday barred the estranged brother of taipan Lucio Tan, Mariano Tanenglian, from offering himself as a government witness against his sibling on the alleged ill-gotten origins of the billionaire’s tobacco, alcohol and banking empire.

The anti-graft court’s Fifth Division ruled that it could not allow Tanenglian, a principal defendant along with Tan, to turn state witness because the Presidential Commission on Good Government had terminated its presentation of evidence in April 2009.

Moreover, the government panel, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, had already rested its case by filling a formal offer of exhibits in October 2009, which effectively prevented the plaintiff, in this case the government, from calling a new witness for the civil complaint, listed as Civil Case No. 0005.

The government is seeking to forfeit Tan’s assets in several companies including Fortune Tobacco Corp., Asia Brewery Inc., Allied Banking Corp., Foremost Farms, Himmel Industries Inc., Grandspan Development Corp., Silangan Holdings Inc., and Dominium Realty and Construction Corp and Shareholdings Inc., claiming that those assets were actually owned by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his heirs.

"It is apparent that if granted immunity, defendant Tanenglian will give testimony or evidence not in support of the defenses he pleaded in his answer but in support of the complaint," the Sandiganbayan said.

"This court has repeatedly denied motions to reopen proceedings for the purpose of presenting evidence for the plaintiff [Republic of the Philippines]."

In his motion, Tanenglian claimed that the Dec. 2, 2010 deadline set by the Sandiganbayan to complete his presentation was unreasonable as it only gave him 17 days, when the government had more than two decades to present its case.

On the contrary, the Sandiganbayan said, all defendants were notified to prepare their presentation from Nov. 5, 2005, when it issued the pre-trial order setting the trial dates.

Still, "in the interest of justice," the Fifth Division agreed to grant Tanenglian up to February 3, 2011 to present his testimony even with the absence of immunity.

Tanenglian’s application for immunity was turned down by both the PCGG and then Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, who were wary of Tanenglian’s "obscure motives" as the offer of cooperation offer came 20 years after the filing of the case and only after his much-publicized falling-out with Tan.

Devanadera also said Tanenglian held high positions in Tan’s companies and was a key defendant in the case.

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