Gagging Mariano (Part 1)

A few days ago, Manila newspapers reported that the Solicitor General recommended the rejection of Mr. Mariano Tanenglian’s offer  to testify against his brother Lucio Tan in exchange for immunity from civil and criminal liability (some reports make use of the phrase “state witness”).

Mariano is expected to testify  that a substantial part of billionaire Lucio’s business empire comprises wealth unlawfully amassed by the former President Ferdinand Marcos during his tenure and therefore subject to forfeiture.  Given that the Republic has consistently failed to get a firm hold on the elusive prize for decades, the emphatic and almost brusque rejection of the offer seems puzzling.

Admittedly, we are not privy to all information which may or may not have influenced the Solicitor General’s decision.   By way of example, since one of the principal justifications for the rejection is that the specific conditions for the giving of the testimony were unacceptable, a copy of the draft Immunity Agreement would have been helpful in testing the substantive merits of the position.

In any case, what we do have are public statements made by the concurrent Solicitor General and Acting Secretary of Justice regarding the rationale for the rejection.  These justifications can in fact be measured against a legal standard even outside the context of the terms of the proposed Immunity Agreement (albeit perhaps with certain qualifications).   Considering that the case in which the proposed testimony is to be taken is of historical import and considering further the personalities involved,  we venture to add that these legal standards must be somewhat restrictive.

Thus, the question is: are the justifications offered by the OSG for the rejection of the offer of Mariano Tanenglian to testify in Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. 005 legally valid?

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