Lucio Tan Gets Reprieve On Wealth Suit Under PNOY’s Watch!

Draw whatever conclusion you want, but the dismissal of the forfeiture proceedings against businessman tycoon Lucio Tan by the Sandiganbayan happened on President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s watch, thus damaging his ‘impact’ slogan of “Matuwid Na Daan.”

Tan had survived  Corazon Aquino’s  (1986-1992) efforts to restore what had been stolen from the people by the Marcoses and his cronies where it was more intense during that period, and thus  it comes as no surprise the dismissal of the multi-billion suit filed by the PCGG against the business mogul 25 years earlier.

We can be  incorrigible  romantics and insulate the President from this legal setback, but what looms greater is the perception that ‘good governance’ hardly concerns the courts.  Tan had been winning all his court battles left and right.  One tax evasion case against him was dismissed by the Supreme Court years back but it has generated so much public outrage that forced the spokesman of the Court to issue a statement that the justices of the high tribunal had not been bribed by Mr. Tan for the favorable ruling.

Or Mr. Tan’s resilience underscores our patronage-client culture, where rent-seekers would bet on all political horses on elections to ensure continues enjoyment of government protection and monopoly of state resources regardless of who controls state power.

It is not remote that the Sandiganbayan decision on Tan’s case was with the blessing of the President himself. In either scenario,  — 1). Courts are out of sync with the President promise to reform the bureaucracy; or  2).  the President is captive of Mr. Tan and this does not augur well to the “Matuwid Na Daan” slogan.  That the decision came too soon even before the euphoria over CJ Corona’s ouster had waned,  is both a big joke and a tragedy!

Like a highly evolved virus, Mr.  Tan has the capacity to survive any political climate; he can morph into the body-politic and deceptively lure the host into accepting the intrusion using treasure troves he accumulated over the years.  Our institutions are overfriendly with Mr. Tan, and for good measure. He is our new “Capo di tutti capi” – he is untouchable!

Mr. Tan’s and our oligarch’s navigatory skills in the vicious hues of predatory politics, finds apt description in Alfred W. McCoy’s opus, An Anarchy of Families, State and Family in the Philippines:

“Over the past half-century, this oligarchic system has proved flexible, even fluid, ignoring the source of any ill-gotten gains and readily integrating parvenu families within this social elite. Lucio Tan might be a déclassé’ Chinese émigré, but he has become the nation’s leading entrepreneur through unerring political instincts, which have allowed him to maintain an unbroken record of corporation expansion under five rival administrations, winning key licenses under Marcos, acquiring the national airline under Marcos’s enemy Aquino, surviving a mass tax investigation started by Ramos, and winning extraordinary executive boons from Estrada.  No matter how determined any administration might be to destroy a particular oligarch, all seem to survive.  Danding Cojuangco came home, wealth intact, after his cousin and blood enemy President Aquino left office; the Lopezes restored much to their lost financial empire after their nemesis Marcos fell from power; and the Marcoses, too, are back from exile and back in office, many of  their plundered billions still somehow under their control.”

Seeing the small-time thieves in jail and the bigger ones cozying up with court barons and flaunting their wealth and exercising state powers directly or by proxy, brings to mind the case of Delsa Flores, ex-CJ Corona, the Marcoses, Tan, Erap and GMA and the words of Justice George Malcolm of the colonial Supreme Court altogether:

“It is an aphorism that before the law all men are equal. That indeed should be the aim of those entrusted with the administration of justice. The lowly accused in a remote barrio and the powerful criminal in the metropolis should stand at the bar of justice with equal rights and equal burdens. They are entitled exactly to the same extend to the protection of the law. But realistically speaking, do they receive equal consideration? The lowly accused is defended by an obscure attorney de oficio, the forms of law are gone through, and soon he is behind prison bars. The powerful criminal employs experienced counsel and his rights are tenaciously defended by them at every turn; found guilty in the trial court and in the Supreme Court, he need not despair, for witnesses for the prosecution can be found to declare their testimony false and to provide an easy avenue for escape.”

“The Portuguese have a proverb, “If a man steals much he becomes a baron; if he steals little he is a thief.” Possibly all too true.”

Strange, but Malcolm’s concurring opinion,  above pertains to  a case of another rich Chinese Mariano Cu Unjieng,  found guilty of defrauding a bank through falsification of commercial quedans in 1935 but he had tried  varied legal maneuvers, aided by hotshot lawyers to get off the legal hook but to no avail.   It looks like that a court can get out of a hell-hole if it is serious  enough in dispensing justice the way it should.  Accused, Cu Unjieng filed four motions for new trial, which were all denied.  This attitude of the colonial court was lost on the present Supreme Court, when on another case by Mr. Tan involving PAL employees, the Court reconsidered its prior ruling on a ‘mere letter’ filed by his lawyer, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, the former government lawyer of Mr. Marcos.

Here is Justice Malcolm again:

“My transfer from the Supreme Court to the High Commissioner’s office was scheduled on the date following the Commonwealth inaguration.  The change was delayed by me for two months because of a criminal case involving Mariano Cu Unjieng – reputedly the wealthiest Chinese in the Islands – who had pending motions for a new trial.  It was my opinion that the accused was guilty as found, and that there should be a standard of justice for the rich and the poor.” (American Colonial Careerist, George Malcolm,  p. 51).

6 thoughts on “Lucio Tan Gets Reprieve On Wealth Suit Under PNOY’s Watch!

  1. The Portuguese are poor but wise. I spent ten days in a stone mansion north of Oporto studying port wines and bull fights. The Philippines has as many barons as thieves, I think. And 25 years to settle a case is not exactly what you would call speedy. Most of the evidence probably was eaten by termites over the years, or witnesses died, or the judge got Alzheimers. No wonder he didn’t get convicted of anything.

  2. That how money talks….then with special letters from Estelito Mendoza…of course Tan will always get favorable decisions….

  3. I do not leave a response, but after reading through a few of the
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