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‘Return of Marcos wealth should be all or nothing’

MANILA, Philippines –  It should be all or nothing.

This was the stand of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other lawmakers yesterday with regard to the purported plan of the Marcoses to return their alleged ill-gotten wealth to help the government solve its financial deficit.

President Duterte on Tuesday said the Marcos family had agreed to return their vast unexplained wealth, including a “few gold bars,” to the government.

Alvarez described this as a “welcome development” that would best serve the government’s interest. But he stressed: “The Marcoses should give it all, nothing less.”

But Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, the dictator’s eldest daughter, said their family still had to discuss the matter.

Her mother, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, is fighting the government’s efforts to recover at least 156 expensive paintings, including priceless works of Old Masters Michelangelo, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. Also in the collection are paintings of Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin.

Alvarez said the previous leaderships of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) had miserably failed in 31 years to find out how much was really amassed by the Marcoses and their cronies.

The PCGG was created with the sole mandate of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

“That’s the problem with the PCGG. Despite the number of cases, nothing is happening,” he said.

Alvarez led congressmen in filing House Bill 5233 seeking to transfer the task of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies to the office of Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, however, pushed for the creation of a truth commission, if only for purposes of letting the whole world know on record about the excesses of the late dictator.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, for his part, expressed doubts on the veracity of reports the Marcoses had in their possession about 7,000 tons of gold.

“I don’t think we can produce that kind of tonnage from the manner by which we are mining gold,” he remarked.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the Marcoses should first confirm Duterte’s statement.

At the same time, Lagman asked Duterte not to give immunity from criminal prosecution to the Marcos family in case they surrender part or all of such wealth.

“There is need for a categorical statement from the Marcos heirs confirming President Duterte’s report that they are willing to surrender a part of the Marcos’ ill-gotten hoard,” he said.

Lagman said the confirmatory statement must include identification of hidden wealth that would be returned, persons or parties in possession of such wealth, its location, timeline for return and conditionality, if any.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin also said Duterte should not offer immunity in exchange for the return of hidden assets of the Marcos family.

Villarin said something concrete must result from the President’s statement about the Marcoses’ offer.

“Otherwise, this is just pure propaganda to lure the public to a false sense of reality where public outrage over killings has risen to a crescendo. Filipinos should know better when we are taken for a ride or not. This could be much ado over nothing,” he added.

Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said he found it “a bit odd that the President is speaking for the Marcos family on this issue when the latter has the media stature to make the commitment itself.”

“Would this also mean that they are willing to admit that they had indeed amassed ill-gotten wealth and are willing to subject themselves to the justice mill for crimes against the people?” he asked.

(D. Porcalla, PS)