Weird (but well played?)
Everyday politics in the Philippines is strange enough, but lately it has been veering into downright surreal territory.
There’s the curious case of the justice secretary, for example, who had gleefully peddled an alleged sex tape of a sitting senator to smear her reputation, and then, when caught apparently conspiring with a partisan group (through phone messages, right on the Senate floor) to push cases against yet another sitting senator, was quick to invoke privacy, ethics and proper senatorial conduct.
Or even the President himself, who admitted on nationwide TV that he had lied and made up accusations against another senator, a persistent critic of his administration — only for his legion of supporters to again brush off the startling admission and accept Malacañang’s defense that his “invention” of a foreign bank account was all part of some cunning “game plan.”
Yet here’s another weird incident that happened over the weekend at the University of the Philippines Los Baños grounds where, without warning, over 100,000 people rapidly gathered on Saturday morning. They were there supposedly for a milestone moment: to receive money directly from the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The people came armed with pamphlets that bore the title “Life and Achievements of Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Republic of the Philippines (1965-1986),” printed by one Bullion Buyer Ltd.
The attendees had to buy the pamphlet for P30 each — a small price to pay for what they had been promised in return: as much as P500,000 for each registered family, to be given in installments of P10,000 every month over four years, and even gold bars from the fabled Marcos hoard.
The organizer of the gathering was an entity called One Social Family Credit Cooperative; its alleged office number in Barangay Lapidario, Trece Martires City, Cavite, turned out to be private home number in Naic.
Bullion Buyer Ltd. is also unregistered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In fact, the SEC had warned local government units as early as April that the company was clearly operating as a scam.
It enticed recruits, designated as “participating leaders,” to pay a fee of P2,000, which would allegedly have given them priority status once the Marcos money is distributed.
The recruits were then tasked to organize their own subgroups in their towns and localities. The promised amounts were staggering: P1 million as a first tranche, and then, 30 days later, another $1 million.
What rational person would believe such outlandish claims, right?
Bullion Buyer Ltd. was sued for syndicated estafa in 2013 by some of the people it had bilked. And yet, the story of the Marcos giveaway is still in circulation and is apparently as potent as ever, as evidenced by the throng that was lured to descend on the UPLB campus from the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon — even faraway Marinduque.
The dictator’s son, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., was quick to describe the gathering as “a scam, pure and simple” and to deny that his family had anything to do with it.
And yet, curiously, as Vera Files reported, the Bullion Buyer Ltd. pamphlet is an abridged version of a 2004 publication titled “Let the Marcos Truth Prevail,” which was distributed free to public schools and universities.
The book has no ascribed author, but it contains a direct link to the Marcoses: scanned copies of what it says are Imelda Marcos’ checks as a widow of a war veteran — “materials that cannot be found in public records,” as Vera Files noted.
No money from the Marcos wealth materialized at the UPLB grounds on Saturday, but despite the crowd going home empty-handed, hundreds of thousands of the Marcos propaganda pamphlet still made their way to people’s hands and, presumably, their homes.
The suspicious would wonder: Other than being a scam, was it actually a shadowy hand well played?
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