A group of human rights claimants which won a class suit against late dictator Ferdinand Marcos has staked claim to the Philippine government’s civil forfeiture case involving 150 of Imelda Marcos’ prized paintings purchased through their allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
In a motion for intervention filed before the Sandiganbayan Special Division, the group represented by Zenaida Mique and Hilda Narciso asked the court to allow them to intervene in the motion for partial summary judgement filed by the Republic of the Philippines regarding the court’s resolution on the forfeiture of Imelda’s 150 paintings purchased in the 1970s-80s.
The group said while the Philippine government is staking its claim over the paintings purchased with malversed funds during the Marcos regime, the group said it also has an interest on the artworks as human rights claimants.
The group said this is because it won a class suit against Marcos in a Hawaii court which ordered the dictator’s family to indemnify some 7,000 claimants with $2 billion and $353.6 million.
The group said in December 2012, it commenced a turnover proceeding in the New York County Supreme Court against the New York Country district attorney that seized two of Imelda’s paintings and at least $15 million proceeds from a sale of a third painting.
The New York County Supreme Court later ruled that the paintings were in its custody.
The group also sued Imelda’s personal secretary Vilma Bautista and sought from her 200 paintings.
A Manhattan court would later convict Bautista of conspiracy and tax fraud and sentence her to two to six years in prison for the illegal sale in New York of Imelda’s Monet piece that disappeared after the Marcoses fled the Philippines.
In March 2016, the Philippine government filed a motion for partial judgement before the Sandiganbayan with regard to Marcos’ civil forfeiture case No. 141.
The motion identified Imelda’s paintings purchased in the 70s and 80s, all of which were also included in then claimants’ case against Imelda’s personal secretary Bautista in New York.
The group said the Philippine government “has not advised the (Sandiganbayan) of the pendency of the litigation in the United States over the same artwork which is the subject of the pending motion for partial summary judgement.”
“The petitioner has fraudulently failed to inform the Honorable Court that, by virtue of a formal settlement made in 1986 by the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Government), that it recouped the funds allegedly misappropriated and used to purchase most of the artwork,” the group said.
The group claimed it has a “legal interest” to intervene in the Philippine government’s motion “as they are so situated as to be adversely affected by any disposition of the property (paintings).”
It added that the New York District Attorney even filed an action for interpleader before the New York Federal Court in Feb. 2014 seeking a determination of the entitlement to the seized property and naming Imelda, the group and the Philippine government as defendants.
At least three paintings and proceeds of a fourth painting have been deposited before the federal court.
Earlier, the Sandiganbayan on Sept. 2014 ordered to confiscate Imelda’s paintings believed to be part of the family’s ill-gotten wealth, among them three similar “Madonna and Child” paintings by Michelangelo; “Femme Au Chapeau,” “Paysage,” “Jeune Femme En Rouge,” “Coupe De Fleurs,” five “Vase De Fleurs,” “Panier De Fleurs” and “Jeune Femme Shabilant” by Paule Gobillard; and a Picasso replica brass strokes.
These prized artworks have since been transferred to the authorized custodian National Museum for safekeeping.
READ: Sandigan authorizes National Museum to secure Imelda Marcos paintings
Imelda also faces 10 counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly having pecuniary interests in various foundations set up by her and her husband to accumulate ill-gotten wealth.
Her son Sen. Bongbong Marcos, a vice presidential candidate, in an election debate denied that he has corruption allegations under his name. He also said he could not return what he does not have, pertaining to the family’s ill-gotten wealth. IDL