The Marcos ‘donation’
September 11, before it became a date of infamy over the destruction of the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, used to be known to “Marcos babies” as the birthday of Ferdinand Marcos celebrated nationwide during the martial law years. There was no sunny weather over the Libingan ng mga Bayani last Monday, Marcos’ 100th birth anniversary so, depending on which side of history your toast is buttered — the skies wept either in blessing or to spoil the celebration.
Just before the centenary, there was controversy over the return of the Marcos fortune in exchange for immunity from suit. Our memories being painfully short, nobody remembered to look up the news of Jan. 1, 1970, when Marcos announced that he was donating all of his worldly possessions to fund education, technology, science and the arts through the Marcos Foundation. He noted in his diary:
“Yesterday I finally transferred all of my worldly possessions to the Filipino people through the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation. I have been planning this for many years but I felt that the beginning of my second term was the most propitious time. This was a decision arrived at after a long deliberation and was not the result of pique, anger, despair or emotion — nor is it just a political stunt. I have no further political plans.
“And it seems a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.
“The surprising thing is that the reaction of people seem to be of no consequence to me. It was a noble act waiting to be done. I feel I am above all the pettiness of men and I look down on them with some contempt but with a counter balance of understanding.”
Nobody seems to have believed him, with Chronicle columnist Ernesto Granada commenting — with some sarcasm — that it was the greatest display of generosity in Philippine history since Jose Rizal threw his slippers in the Pasig river. It is said that this public act was prompted by an open letter of some Catholic bishops on the eve of Marcos’ second term that asked for “a charismatic leader, a deeply moral person whose honesty and integrity are beyond reproach, a President who will inspire[…], a leader who will not tolerate graft and corruption, self-enrichment, vote-buying and goon-hiring which make a mockery of democracy, almost unlimited overspending for campaigns, a real social crime especially in a country like ours, a deeply Christian leader who will be the moral conscience of our political and economic leaders. “Marcos asked advice on his donation from Juan Ponce Enrile, Geronimo Velasco, Cesar Virata, Cesar Zalamea, and Onofre D. Corpuz who were also named trustees of the foundation.
One wonders if the actual donation papers were drawn after the public announcement and signing by Marcos. It was not clear how much he was giving up and why. What exactly did he mean by “all” of his worldly possessions? How much was the donation worth and was this commensurate to his annual income and assets declared when he assumed office? Marcos was so disappointed by the reception to his generosity he confided in his diary on Jan. 3, 1970:
“[…]I have been asking myself why has the world become so vile, so materialistic, so dirty. All is pragmatism, selfish and unedifying. Why is there no more tenderness—all sex? Why is there no more charity—all malice? Even the clergy has become self-centered. They do not sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake but for self-gratification like the seven bishops who had their appeal to me published in the front pages of the metropolitan dailies. If their motivation was sincere change, they could have come to me first—but they sought publicity first. The worst part is their premises were all false, I hope from ignorance not malice.
“During the war in some critical phase of a battle I always asked myself what could I do which others dare not do and which would change the tide of battle. Now after the 1965 elections I kept asking myself this—until I decided that giving my properties to the people was the answer.
“This would be exemplary. No one dares to do it.
“It will change the tide of the times. Instead of pragmatism—compassion.”
How much is the Marcos Foundation worth today? How do we claim all of Marcos’ possessions with no strings attached?
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