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Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Leila Salaverria
First Posted 06/13/2008
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals has ruled that there is no proof that members of the feuding Ilusorio family had killed their wealthy patriarch Potenciano, even as it lamented the melodramatic twists in the heirs’ saga.
The appellate court upheld the decision of the Department of Justice dismissing the two parricide complaints filed by two factions of the Ilusorio family against each other.
Each camp accused the other of causing the death in 2001 of Potenciano Ilusorio, a Marcos crony, born in 1915, whose wealth was derived from ownership of the country’s first satellite company, among others.
The case has the makings of a television soap opera, considering the family feud has been marked by disinheritance from fabled riches, corporate takeovers, betrayal and alleged murder, among others, the court said.
But the court said it was hardly entertained.
In a May 23 decision penned by Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr., the court also said the dismissal of the parricide complaints dashed the prospect of courtroom antics further muddling the feud.
Were it not for this dismissal, the plot would have thickened with the component of courtroom melodrama, Bruselas said.
One of the cases in the Department of Justice was filed by the faction made up of Potenciano’s children Erlinda Ilusorio-Bildner, Maximo Ilusorio and Sylvia Ilusorio-Yap against their siblings Ramon, Marietta and Shereen Ilusorio.
Erlinda Bildner’s group alleged that Ramon’s group caused the elder Ilusorio to overdose on the antidepressant drug Zoloft, resulting in the patriarch becoming weak until he died. The group said Ramon, who had been estranged from his father, had attempted to be declared the sole beneficiary of Potenciano’s assets.
The second case was filed by Potenciano’s widow Erlinda and her three children Ramon, Marietta and Shereen against the three other children Erlinda, Maximo and Sylvia.
The widow’s group alleged that the three other children had dragged their feet before seeking medical attention for the aging patriarch in order to cause his death and thus take control of all his assets. The widow’s group also claimed Potenciano was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
The DoJ dismissed both murder cases, saying that the physical and documentary evidence showed that Potenciano died of natural causes cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to aspiration pneumonia. The bare allegations the witnesses presented failed to overturn this, it said.
Both feuding groups questioned the findings before the appellate court.
In agreeing with the DoJ, the appellate court said that neither of the Ilusorio camps presented proof to overturn the finding that Potenciano’s death resulted from pneumonia.
It also said there was no overt action or aggression or actual killing by any of the Ilusorio family members.
On the complaint filed by Erlinda Bildner’s group, the appellate court said it would have been highly speculative to blame Potenciano’s death on Zoloft because he was not under the care of Ramon’s group in the years immediately preceding his death.
The statements of the doctors showed that Zoloft could not have caused the patriarch’s death, the court noted.
It also becomes palpable from the tenor of the statements made by the physicians presented by the petitioners that Zoloft overdosage could not have caused PI’s death. A wide chasm exists between what could have been and what actually transpired, it said.
The court cited a doctor’s statement that the overdose could have killed Potenciano had it continued, and pointed out that the court did not concern itself with mere possibilities because that realm is endless.
As for the case filed by the widow and her three children, the appellate court noted that the witnesses the camp presented to bolster its allegations later recanted. None of the doctors consulted said Potenciano was suffering from Alzheimer’s, as shown by tests, the court added.
It also said that even if it ordered the criminal cases to be filed in court, there was still insufficient basis to show that a crime had been committed.
Even if the court can compel the public respondent to file the information against either of the Ilusorio camps, no clear legal right has been shown, no sufficient evidence to engender a well-founded belief that the crime alleged had been committed and that anyone of the respondents is probably guilty thereof has been presented by any of the petitioners, the court said.