Hold this family to account
It was not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that disclosures coursed through social media made an immediate impact on public opinion and influenced news media coverage. In the first hours of Jan. 1, copies of a proposed compromise agreement between the government and the Marcos family, including an offer of immunity from legal liability, were circulated on Facebook. The proposal and the drafts came from lawyer Oliver Lozano, who came to public notice after the Marcoses fled the country in 1986, as one of the first Marcos loyalists.
(It was not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that Facebook made the mistake of deleting the copies circulated by some of the more prominent posters; it later restored the copies, but by then the damage—to Facebook and to the Marcoses—was done. Removing the posts had a scandalizing effect, and motivated more people to spread the word about the compromise agreement.)
The Marcos family has denied any involvement in the proposal, and indeed any knowledge of it. But delivery receipts showed that Lozano had sent copies to Rep. Imelda Marcos at her Batasan office and to Gov. Imee Marcos at the Ilocos Norte provincial capitol. This makes the denial suspect.
But the proposed drafts themselves are characterized by lies and half-truths, marketed by the Marcos brand to promote very Marcosian myths. (In that sense, they are very much a product, or a reflection, of Marcos’ institutionalized illusion, the so-called New Society.)
For instance, the draft compromise agreement “without Congressional imprimatur or approval” begins with a repetition of the hoary attempt to turn Marcos into a benefactor, citing his “Handwritten Legacy” written on April 9, 1973, in the seventh month of the dictatorship. If Marcos were truly serious about “bequeathing his earthly goods for the benefit of the Filipino people,” why did he hide his wealth from the people? (Compare his conduct with that of any tycoon who has made his billions legitimately.) He was squirrelling his wealth away in Switzerland and other hideaways. The date of the grand bequest is also telling. It is Bataan Day, and by marking it, Marcos reinforces his fraudulent but career-defining claim to heroic action in the defense of Bataan in 1942. In other words, Marcos was merely posing for posterity.
The same draft asserts that a US court had “decreed absence of ill-gotten wealth” in a case that the first Aquino administration filed against Marcos, his wife Imelda, and others. This is insidiously dishonest; in fact, Imelda was acquitted only because Marcos had died in the course of the proceedings, and the jury did not connect the illegally gained wealth to Imelda. As the New York Times reported: “The crimes may have been committed by Mr. Marcos, many of [the jurors] said, but through five days of deliberation, they did not believe that any of the evidence struck at Mrs. Marcos.”
Other courts, in the United States, in Switzerland, in the Philippines, have concluded that what Lozano describes in his letter to President Duterte as “the huge Marcos wealth” was in fact stolen.
In the draft House bill Lozano prepared, no reason is provided to justify the grant of immunity. There is a lengthy citation of Article XVIII, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution, but none of it explains why the grant of immunity is called for. The draft bill only offers
what appears to be a practical excuse: Immunity “will hasten the use of the Marcos wealth.”
But the Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue of immunity definitively. In 1998, in Chavez v. PCGG, the Court ruled that the Marcoses could not possibly avail themselves of this privilege. “We believe that criminal immunity under Section 5 [of Executive Order 14] cannot be granted to the Marcoses, who are the principal defendants in the spate of ill-gotten wealth cases now pending before the Sandiganbayan. As stated earlier, the provision is applicable mainly to witnesses who provide information or testify against a respondent, defendant or accused in an ill-gotten wealth case.” This ruling has been confirmed in other judgments.
To be sure, inconsistent or incoherent arguments did not stop the Duterte administration
before. As long as the President believes, as he said last September, that “itong mga Marcos, hindi ito papayag na isauli nila tapos kulungin mo sila (These Marcoses, they will not agree to return the wealth if you’ll still send them to jail),” any compromise will favor the dictator’s family at the expense of public interest and justice.
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