SC allows prosecution of Marcos crony-A A +A
Monday, September 30, 2013
THE Supreme Court gave the go-signal to the anti-graft Sandiganbayan to proceed with the trial of cases against businessman Herminio Disini, one of the alleged cronies of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Voting 5-0, the SC First Division said the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the offenses alleged against Disini, and that the cases have not yet prescribed from the time the crime was committed.
Disini was accused by the Office of the Ombudsman in June 2004 of corruption of public officials for brokering the contract between the government and Burns and Roe and Westinghouse Electrical Corp. (Westinghouse) in connection with the construction of the $2.1-billion mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant.
He allegedly offered his shares in Vulcan Industrial and Mining Corp. and the Energy Corp. to Marcos’ Engineering and Construction Company of Asia for the deal to prosper.
The Ombudsman also alleged that Disini violated the anti-graft law for using his ties to Marcos to request and receive commission worth $1 million from Burns and Roe and $17 million from Westinghouse for helping the companies to bag the design and construction contracts, respectively.
Disini is Marcos’ golf buddy and the husband of Imelda Marcos’ cousin, Paciencia Escolin, who was also the physician of the former presidential family.
The SC said the government can still run after Disini even if the crime was discovered only after the first Power People revolution in 1986 or 12 years since the contracts were awarded to Burns and Roe and Westinghouse.
“The prevailing rule on prescription is that, irrespective of whether the offense charged is a felony punishable by the Revised Penal Code or a crime punished by a special law, it is the filing of the complaint or information in the office of the public prosecutor for purposes of the preliminary investigation that interrupts the period of prescription,” the decision read.
As a result, the prescription in Disini’s cases did not yet apply because only five years elapsed from 1986, the time of the discovery of the offenses charged, up to April 1991, the time of the filing of the criminal complaints with the Ombudsman.
Disini pleaded not guilty but still went to the SC after the Sandiganbayan junked his motion to quash the cases against him.
The power plant, which never produced a single watt, is considered one of the most anomalous projects during Marcos’ two-decade rule. His successor, then President Corazon Aquino, decided to mothball the plant on suspicion that it was defective and unsafe.
The government paid off its loan on the plant’s construction in April 2007. It is also in the process of recovering Marcos' reported $10-billion ill-gotten wealth. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)