SC blocks perpetuation of testimony of Romualdez' mother in ill-gotten wealth case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — The Supreme Court (SC) has blocked the perpetuation of the testimony of Juliette Gomez Romualdez, the mother of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, in connection with an ill-gotten wealth case.

The court's ruling means the testimony can no longer be preserved for future use.

The decision, written by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda of the SC First Division, "reversed and set aside" the 2019 decision made by the Court of Appeals that affirmed the order of Branch 137 of the Makati RTC that said the elder Romualdez's testimony should be perpetuated.

According to the document, First Philippine Holdings Corporation's (FPHC) was the former owner of some 6.3 million shares in the Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB)

"Subsequently, FPHC sold the PCIB shares to Trans Middle East (Phils.) Equities, Inc. (TMEE) and one of the latter's incorporators, Edilberto S. Narciso, Jr. (Narciso)," it added.

In 1986, the PCIB shares were sequestered by the Republic of the Philippines through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The shares were deemed "as ill-gotten wealth of its beneficial owner, Benjamin 'Koko' Romualdez (Benjamin), petitioner's husband."

The PCGG then included these shares in a complaint for Reconveyance, Reversion, Accounting, Restitution, and Damages against Benjamin Romualdez and FPHC filed a motion that the sales of the shares to TMEE be annulled and returned to FPHC. It alleged that FPHC's dummy board sold the shares illegally to TMEE.

The Sandiganbayan dismissed the complaint on the grounds of prescription and this was made final in 2009. A second complaint was filed which said that should the shares be found to be ill-gotten wealth, it should be turned over to FPHC. This complaint was also dismissed.

FPHC filed a petition for certiorari with the SC and a Makati court seeking to perpetuate Juliette Gomez Romualdez's testimony citing her age may make her unable to testify before the Sandiganbayan as she was a material witness. The RTC granted the petition and dismissed Romualdez's motion for reconsideration .

The SC ruled that "the CA committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the execution pending appeal."

"The CA merely looked into the physical and medical condition of ·petitioner without even considering that FPHC's complaints-in-intervention were already denied by the Sandiganbayan twice on the ground of prescription of action," it said.

"What is more, this Court had already affirmed with finality the first Sandiganbayan ruling against FPHC's right of action to assail the validity of TMEE's acquisition of said PCIB shares. These facts alone should have been enough for the CA to take a pause and further assess the merits of FPHC's motion," the document added.

The decision said the shares were registered in the name of TMEE and there was no basis to say Juliette Romualdez was part of TMEE. The only thing clear, it said, was Romualdez's connection to her husband.