By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
May 15, 2014
NEW YORK – The district attorney for New York is now sorting through conflicting claims to the ownership of what they refer to as the “interpleaded property” which include paintings, jewelries, and over $15 million in cash and bank accounts the D.A seized from Vilma Bautista.
Bautista is former secretary and confidante of Imelda Marcos.
Some of the paintings were believed to be owned by the Marcoses which were allegedly bought using ill-gotten wealth during their dictatorship in the Philippines in the 70s and 80s.
Court documents show that multiple parties have asserted or may be expected to assert claims to the said properties seized by the New York district attorney.
The interpleaded properties include a Monet painting worth $32 million sold illegally by Bautista which she is now facing up to six years in prison for on charges of tax fraud and conspiracy.
Other paintings include some works by Amorsolo and portraits of Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos and by Ralph Wolfe Cowan.
The district attorney has listed Imelda Marcos as one who may assert a claim to certain interpleaded property. It has also listed Jorge Ramos, Philippine artist and friend of Bautista, who may own eight of the paintings seized by the district attorney from Bautista’s residence. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila is another claimant.
Thousands of victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos era, who are members of a class action holding judgment against the estate of the Marcoses, have also asserted claims to the said seized properties.
However, according to “answer and crossclaims” filed by the Republic of the Philippines at the US District Court of New York on May 13, all the defendants are excluded from asserting claims to the seized properties because those properties were bought using the Philippine government’s money which does not make Marcos the lawful owners of the said properties.
Therefore, the alleged victims of human rights abuses cannot also run after the said properties.
The Philippine government is now asking the court to order that the properties and monies listed in exhibit A, now in the possession of the district attorney, be turned over to its lawful owner which is the Philippine government.
Due to these multiple claims, the New York district attorney has yet to determine which party to release the interpleaded property.
Meantime, attorneys for Vilma Bautista and Leonor Hernandez are demanding trial by jury and a judgement to dismiss the complaints against them.
An initial pre-trial conference is scheduled in September before Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
You can contact Don Tagala at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.