Monday, August 11, 2008

$34M of Marcos Swiss accounts missing

$34M of Marcos Swiss accounts missing CoA

Daily Tribune 08/12/2008

Visiting Swiss Confederation president Pascal Couchepin committed to President Arroyo yesterday continuing support in government efforts to recover assets of former President Ferdinand Marcos in Switzerland and in third countries not knowing $34 million of the $658 million Swiss deposits of the former strongman transferred to the government had gone missing.

The money, according to the PGCC, was used for legal expenses in running after the $35 million Arelma account, which a US court had awarded to human rights victims of Marcos.

The government is contesting ownership of the money awarded by the US court.

Mrs. Arroyo even apprised Couchepin on the status of the Law on the Compensation to Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Marcos regime which is now on its third and final reading in the House of Representatives, according to Malaca�ang.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) in its report on the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) for last year said �at least $34.13 million or P1.4 billion of Swiss deposits placed in escrow at the Philippine National Bank (PNB) declared as funds belonging to and forfeited in favor of the government, earmarked for Salvione et al, and for the Arelma account, were not taken-up in the books of accounts of PCGG,� or in layman�s term, the funds are missing.

The Supreme Court (SC) has

rendered with finality in G.R. No. 152154 dated July 15, 2003 that �the Swiss deposits which were transferred to and are now deposited in escrow at the PNB in the estimated amount of $658.17 million as of Jan. 31, 2002, plus interest, are hereby forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines (RoP).�

As a result of said final and executory decision of the SC, the Sandiganbayan issued a writ of execution dated Jan. 22, 2004 for the transfer of the subject Swiss Deposits deposited in escrow at the PNB to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), the CoA added.

On Jan. 30, 2004, PNB filed with the Sandiganbayan a manifestation with compliance on the said writ of execution and the government, through PCGG, executed a deed of release with Quitclaim on the same date to acknowledge, confirm and affirm PNB�s full compliance to the said writ of execution, it went further.

The CoA audit, however, showed only $624.044 million was transferred and recorded in the books of accounts of the BTr. The balance of $34.13 million or P1.4 billion remained unaccounted in the books.

Couchepin made the assurance to Mrs. Arroyo in helping the government recover Marcos� Swiss assets during a one-on-one meeting where they discussed bilateral issues and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest, particularly developments the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Switzerland�s relations with the European Union.

Mrs. Arroyo assured the Swiss leader that her administration attaches great importance to the speedy passage of the proposed law to ensure that human rights victims are justly compensated.

On his part, Couchepin conveyed the firm expectation of the Swiss Government that the Philippine Congress may soon enact the Human Rights Compensation Bill.

With regard to the two-way trade between the Philippines and Switzerland of around $300 million, with the trade balance clearly in favor of Switzerland, the two Presidents shared the opinion that the private sector could make much better use of existing opportunities.

Couchepin commended the government of Mrs. Arroyo for its decision to participate as Guest Country at MUBA 2009, the biggest Swiss consumer trade fair in Basel.

The event offers the Philippines an excellent platform to promote the country as a prime tourist destination and to present the best of its products.

The two Presidents expressed satisfaction over the active contribution to the Philippine economy of the 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines which employ more than 10,000 people and whose investments amount to $2 billion.

Couchepin praised the robust performance of the Philippine economy during the past years and expects therefore a number of Swiss companies to expand their business operations through additional investments.

On the second day of his visit, Couchepin will hold a working breakfast with the chief executive officers of Swiss multinational companies, which will be hosted by Nestle Philippines Inc.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque will participate in the meeting.

Couchepin will also visit the Asian Development Bank (ADB) where he will be received by its president, Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda. Since joining the ADB in 1967, Switzerland�s contribution to the ADB�s funds has amounted to $500 million, including $50 million which the Swiss Government has just pledged as a contribution to the replenishment of the Asian Development Fund.

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