TRENTON, N.J. — A judge Friday returned to the Philippines more than $1.3 million in bank accounts and New Jersey real estate obtained for deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos with money allegedly stolen from the Philippine treasury.
Lawyers for the government of President Corazon Aquino said Superior Court Judge Paul G. Levy's action was the first by a U.S. court returning Marcos-owned assets to the Philippines. Other lawsuits are pending in New York and California courts. A Texas action has been settled out of court.
"The funds and the property rightfully belong to the Philippine government," Levy said, ruling that there is "hard evidence" that the assests were purchased for Marcos with money siphoned from the Philippine treasury.
A Philippine lawyer who attended Friday's hearing as Aquino's representative said the new president, who will visit New York next week, has been closely monitoring the attempt to reclaim Marcos assets in the United States.
"We are so very happy with what happened," the lawyer, Prince Pascual, said. "This is good news for her."
Levy's decision gave the Aquino government control over bank accounts and liquid assets worth about $470,000 and a Princeton-area mansion and 13-acre estate that was on the market this year for an asking price of $850,000.
"The precedent established here in New Jersey will bear heavily on the other litigation," said Morton Stavis, a New York lawyer coordinating the various suits brought around the United States by Aquino's Commission on Good Government.
Levy approved the transfer without hearing arguments. The judge said Marcos had defaulted because no lawyers had appeared to represent him since a lawsuit against him was filed in March, shortly after he fled the Philippines and settled in Hawaii.
The pre-Revolutionary War home in Lawrence Township was used by Imee Marcos, the former president's daughter, while she attended nearby Princeton University in the 1970s.
Documents filed in the case against Marcos included allegations that a total of four New Jersey homes--two in Mercer County near Princeton and two in Camden County outside Philadelphia--were purchased for Marcos by middlemen with funds siphoned from the Philippine treasury.
The three other homes have since been sold, though some of the proceeds from those sales are included in the cash being returned to the Philippines.
In Honolulu, where he celebrated his 69th birthday Thursday at a party that included singing by his wife, Imelda, Marcos said he has finished writing a 250-page book entitled "Our Fighting Faith--The Philippine Crisis: Will It Lead to a New Vietnam or Third World War?"
He said he wrote the book in a month and that it discusses whether the Communists have taken over the Philippine government or are in the process of doing it now.
Marcos said he is planning another book, on the "geopolitical situation in the world today."