The man who successfully argued PIATCO’s ICC case

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes the mysterious ways are full of happiness, and sometimes they are tinged with sadness. And at other times, they are a mixture of sadness and happiness.

God worked mysteriously several weeks ago when the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, voted in favor of the airport terminal services company PIATCO (Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.), putting a definitive end to litigation that began in 2004 with PIATCO’s filing of a suit against the Philippine government. The suit was triggered by the government’s expropriation of NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3, after making an initial downpayment ordered by the Pasay City Commercial Court.

Expectedly, PIATCO, which had as a strategic partner the German firm Fraport, took the government to court. The case seemed to be interminable, bedeviled martly by the charge filed by the government against Fraport for violation of the 60-40 foreign equity rule of the Constitution. An exasperated PIATCO decided to resort to the arbitration facility of the International Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Singapore.

PIATCO won the case, with ICC ruling that NAIA Terminal 3, was not the property of the government and that therefore PIATCO was entitled to ‘just compensation’ for the terminal’s expropriation. The ICC panel must have been impressed by the brief prepared by PIATCO’s lead counsel, the firm Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and De los Angeles, and by the manner in which PIATCO’s arguments were presented to the panel. A Filipino friend of mine who attended the Singapore proceedings told me that, listening to the way that PIATCO’s lawyer argued the air terminals’ company’s case, he was proud to be a Filipino. The lawyer’s performance was, he said, masterful.

I spoke earlier of God’s mysterious ways being at times a mixture of joy and sadness. On the one hand, the Supreme Court voted to award to PIATCO, as ‘just compensation’, $510 million (almost P24 billion) plus annual interest of $16 million (P753 million) until full payment of NAIA Terminal 3’s construction cost. On the other hand, he took away the lawyer who so eloquently argued PIATCO’s case before the ICC arbitration panel.

That lawyer was Eduardo de los Angeles. Dindo, as he was known to his colleagues and friends, passed away two weeks ago. Dindo de los Angeles left us in the same way he lived and toiled among us – quietly, without fuss and with abiding concern for who and what he would be leaving behind.

I think that the name of Dindo de los Angeles was once or twice submitted to the Judicial and Bar Council for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Just as he was a first-rate legal practitioner, so he would have been a first-rate member of the High Court.

Attorney Eduardo de los Angeles, an honorable member of the Philippine Bar, knew about the decision in the ICC case. I don’t know if he was still well enough to learn about the Supreme Court ruling. Well enough or not, he undoubtedly scored a double homerun for his client. Bravo, Dindo.


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