The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, June 15, awarded in favor of the government P1.01 billion in damages against the estate of the late businessman Herminio T. Disini, founder of the Herdis Group of Companies, in connection with the $2.3 billion mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in Morong, Bataan.
In a press statement, the SC’s public information office (PIO) said that the SC handed down the ruling in a 12-0 vote with two justices inhibiting themselves.
The SC decision affirmed with modification the ruling issued by the Sandiganbayan in 2012.
It deleted for lack of basis the Sandiganbayan’s order for Disini to return the $50.56 million he received as commissions and, instead, directed him to pay the government temperate and exemplary damages with interests until fully paid.
In June 2014, Disini died due to organ failure and was buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City.
The construction of the BNPP started in 1975 and was finished in 1984.
In 1986, the late former President Corazon C. Aquino mothballed the BNPP on safety concerns. The government then filed a suit in the United States against Westinghouse and Burns & Roe for bribery, fraud and racketeering. In 1993, the New Jersey court dismissed the case.
In 1995, the administration of then President Fidel V. Ramos signed a $100 million settlement agreement with Westinghouse.
The PIO said that in its SC decision dated June 15, 2021, “the Court held Disini liable for exerting undue influence in the awarding of the BNPP Project by taking advantage of his close association with former President Ferdinand Marcos.”
A copy of the decision was not immediately available and the PIO said it will be posted immediately on the SC website – sc.judiciary.gov.ph.
The PIO also said in its statement:
“The Republic, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed a complaint before the Sandiganbayan in 1987 for restitution and damages against Disini, former President Marcos and Mrs. Marcos.
“In 2012, the Anti-Graft Court found Disini liable for receiving commissions of about US$50 Million from Westinghouse, but absolved former Pres. Marcos and Mrs. Marcos for lack of evidence.
“The Republic claimed that Westinghouse solicited the influence of Disini, who was known as a close associate of Pres. Marcos, to become its Special Sales Representative to ensure its appointment as the main contractor for the BNPP Project and for favorable terms, for a fee of 3% of the contract price as commission.
“The High Court held that the Sandiganbayan erred in relying on a piece of photocopied document which was not substantiated as a secondary evidence, and which purportedly showed that Disini received US$50 Million in commissions.
“Nonetheless, the totality of the testimonial and documentary evidence of the government proved that Disini had unduly enriched himself at the expense of the people and the Republic.
“The Republic has the right to be indemnified by reason thereof in the form of damages.
“WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED in PART. The assailed April 11, 2012 Decision and October 24, 2012 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan in Civil Case No. 0013 are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The order to account and convey US$50,562,500.00 is DELETED for lack of basis. Instead, petitioner is DIRECTED to PAY the Republic of the Philippines temperate damages in the amount of One Billion Pesos (₱1,000,000,000.00), and in exemplary damages in the amount of One Million Pesos (₱1,000,000.00). These monetary awards shall earn legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the finality of this Decision until its satisfaction.
“The unanimous decision of the Court was written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando. Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier took no part.”