The distraction of Marcos gold
The Marcos regime looted the economy, the treasury, and—when that did not prove enough to satisfy the dictatorship’s needs—the foreign loans it contracted on the Philippines’ behalf. It is not only absurd, then, but also cruel, to credit Imelda Marcos’ supposed aside to Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, reportedly made over a decade ago, during a wedding at which they were both principal sponsors, that she wanted to return about “7,000 tons” of gold to the country. Atienza remembers Marcos’ truly Imeldific reasoning: “I’ll liberate the nation from foreign debt.” Much of that debt
was incurred by the Marcos regime; by the time Ferdinand Marcos and family fled Malacañang Palace in 1986, the country’s foreign debt load
had multiplied 25 times from when he first took office, to about $26 billion. At least a third of that amount disappeared into the black hole that is the Marcos hidden wealth.
In other words, Imelda, in her profound concern for the country her family plundered, wanted to free it from the burden she and the Marcoses had themselves imposed. Nice.
President Duterte has added his own glittering twist to the continuing Marcos story. His remarks are worth quoting in fuller detail. At a speech in the same palace the Marcoses had fled in great haste, Mr. Duterte announced a potential breakthrough. “The Marcoses, I will not name the spokesman, sabi nila (they said), ‘We’ll open everything and hopefully return yung mga nakita na talaga (those that have been discovered).’” The President added that the Marcoses are also willing to return “a few gold bars.”
“Sabi nila na malaki ang deficit mo, maybe the projected spending, pero hindi ito malaki baka makatulong, but we are ready to open and bring back, sabi niya, pati yung a few gold bars. (They said, your deficit is high, maybe the projected spending but though this is not big, maybe it will help, but
we are ready to open and bring back, they said, even a few gold bars).”
We are sorry to hear the President himself giving credence to the Marcos gold myth.
When they landed in Hawaii in 1986, the Marcoses were found by US authorities to have brought with them extraordinary wealth, including 22 crates full of cash amounting to $717 million, over 300 crates of assorted jewelry, deposit slips in foreign banks worth a total of $124 million—and some $200,000 in gold bullion.
So maybe the Marcos spokespersons were telling the truth about “a few gold bars.” But based just on what the Marcoses were found to have brought with them on the US Air Force planes that took them to their Hawaii exile, and not even considering the monies already recovered from the Swiss banking system or the properties and previous artwork they amassed in the United States or their assets in still-pending cases, the offer of
“a few gold bars” is proportionally petty.
It also reinforces the family’s narrative about Marcos himself discovering the fabled Yamashita treasure, thus offering a possible explanation for the wealth that Ferdinand could not hide or Imelda could not forebear to keep a secret. Yes, among the things the Marcoses brought with them to Hawaii was a three-foot-tall statue of solid gold. But again, that was only a small part of the assets they managed to carry with them—all told, over a billion
dollars worth. And this was 1986.
And the reason the family spokesperson told the President aligns with Imelda’s fantastic reasoning; this time, the family that is responsible for
incurring debt that the government is still paying for even at this late date, debt which led to Guinness Book of World Records-level corruption, wants to “help” pay.
If the Marcoses are serious about helping the country, they should stop playing coy: They should return all the money they stole which have not yet been recovered, they should apologize unqualifiedly for the abuses of the Marcos regime, they should disqualify themselves from ever holding public
office again. Otherwise, all this talk is distraction.
All that glitters is not gold; sometimes it’s just a means to stop a public anxious about extrajudicial killings, or the smuggling of shabu that has implicated Davao City’s highest officials, or the bullying of China, from asking too many inconvenient questions.
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