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November 01, 2011

Asset Forfeiture Forum Bares Gaps on Anti-Corruption Enforcement in the Philippines, Inspires Support from Stakeholders

November 2011 

On September 30, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency charged with recovering former President Ferdinand Marcos’s ill-gotten assets, held a forum on good governance and asset forfeiture in the Philippines, marking the culmination of the technical assistance from the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the commission. The event—which was attended by more than 200 representatives from the judiciary, congress, anti-corruption agencies, business groups, civil society and the diplomatic corps—featured the findings of the commission’s assessment of its own asset recovery efforts and the successful adoption of an inter-agency coordination protocol between PCGG and the Office of the Special Prosecutor. Supported by ABA ROLI and USAID, the study evaluated existing forfeiture efforts, examining the status of PCGG cases and the level of success in recovering assets. Findings indicated that the asset recovery regime in the Philippines is still riddled with many challenges, such as lengthy court processes that take an average of six to 20 years, insufficient legal tools and training, lack of a designated asset management agency and unclear delineation of jurisdiction among various government agencies.

The study assessed 84 pending civil and criminal cases of the PCGG and found that delays are primarily caused by interlocutory appeals on incidents elevated to appellate courts at every stage of a case. It also found that other legal remedies, such as non-conviction based forfeiture that were pursued in 7% of the audited cases, are underutilized. The report recommended that Filipino anticorruption and law enforcement agencies, policy makers and legislators exploit  current forfeiture laws, develop a regulatory regime that prevents dissipation of assests, re-examine prosecutorial performance and strengthen  asset and records management. 

PCGG Commissioner Gerard Mosquera said that building the state's capability to recover illegally obtained property would compromise “the capacity of the corrupt to enjoy the fruits of their illegal enterprise.” He added that that would in turn reduce “the incentive to commit corruption, leading to a decrease in its incidence.”

Sharing his department's practices, Robert Courtney of the U.S. Department of Justice said, “We don’t allow interlocutory appeals. They are all put together at the end of the litigation.” He said that the practice helps expedite cases.

Discussing the Philippine government’s anti-corruption and good governance action plan, Florencio Abad, secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, said that transparency and accountability were critical for improved public finance management. Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations Committee and the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Anti-Money Laundering Act, expressed his deep concern on the adverse impact of weaknesses in the current legal framework. He said he was committed to legislative reforms to strengthen the anti-corruption and asset forfeiture regime.

The forum was held as part of the agency’s prestigious Haydee Yorac Commemorative Lecture Series, in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]