Those pesky proverbs


DO IMELDA Marcos and Ferdinand Jr. use the same dictionary ordinary Filipinos work by? Read the senator’s delayed reaction to the close to $354-million contempt judgment, slammed by the US Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) against them.

With Mama, “it is my duty to administer the estate’s assets properly.” Bongbong said the Marcoses would be decisive, when this case is “filed in the proper court. (We’ve) always wanted closure to issues of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations…. Our family also wants the country to move forward…. But (we) would like to see the process done according to law.”

Ti aramid ti mangipakita ti kina siasinom, an Ilocano proverb says. “Deeds tell who you are.”

The Marcoses tried to secretly ship out of the United States paintings and other artworks from the contested holdings for a 25-percent, tax-free share, the court found. That would sandbag an injunction against tapping estate assets while the jury deliberated.

“Contumacious conduct,” the US magistrate fumed. It “caused direct harm” to martial law victims. The court whacked the Marcoses with a daily fine of $100,000. When the contempt order expired, the tab totaled $353.6 million.

Peanuts for the Marcoses? Yet, it could wrest for this penalty a Guinness Book of Records slot. If so, it’d be a homecoming of sorts for Imelda. Until the early 1990s, she and Ferdinand Sr. were a yearly feature in the Guinness section on theft.

Ban bannog ti agdil-dillaw, no cadcadduan ti agtactacaw, an Ilocano maxim says. Would Ferdinand Jr. please help citizens who cannot follow? “It is useless to criticize if your companion is the thief.”

Theft on a grand scale is what the unanimous Supreme Court decision of July 2003 was all about (GR No. 152154). It directed that Marcos’ secret Swiss deposits, amounting  to $658,175,373, be “forfeited in favor of petitioner Republic of the Philippines.”

The Swiss government earlier had returned the loot. Until that decision, Philippine National Bank held the boodle in escrow. Imelda, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, Irene Marcos-Araneta and Bongbong tried—but failed—to add that to their fortunes.

Imelda is Waray and may not be familiar with the Ilocano adage, Ti cuarta isu ti naimbag nga agservi, negm dakes nga mangiturong. “Money is a good servant but a bad master.”

Imelda earlier this year bitterly complained she’d been robbed. “The Presidential Commission on Good Government stole my jewels. They should return them, instead of displaying them in a National Museum exhibit” before the Aquino administration auctions them off.

The lady wailed about three batches of confiscated gems: (a) the Malacañang Collection;  (b) the Honolulu Batch; and (c) the Roumeliotes Set.

People Power demonstrators stumbled across 300 gems in Malacañang closets, hours after the Marcoses scrambled aboard Chinook escape helicopters. In Honolulu, the Marcoses  kept what they declared: bearer bonds, cash, etc. But US customs didn’t look the other way with 278 crates of art and P27.7 million in newly minted currency. There were over 400 jewels stashed among gold bars, wrapped in diaper bags.

Half a world away, Philippine authorities nailed Greek national Demetriou Roumeliotes when he tried to smuggle out 60 gems. A 37-carat diamond, crafted by Bulgari, is the centerpiece of the Roumeliotes Set. “They were inside a package addressed to Imelda Marcos when seized,” Arab News reported.

Roumeliotes denied ownership, and later said they were fakes. Nonsense, the reputable auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s snapped. Imelda agreed. “The jewelry was taken out of Malacañang presidential palace without the knowledge, much less  the consent, of the petitioner between Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, 1986,” she said in a court petition.

The Malacañang Collection and the Roumeliotes Set are in BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) vaults today. “These are all mine,” she stressed.  What about the Honolulu Batch? Imelda “signed an agreement with the US government in 1991, giving up the jewels. In exchange, two racketeering cases against her in Honolulu were dropped,” Arab News added.

As  public officials—Ferdinand Sr. was president and Madame Imelda was minister of human settlements—they were of modest means. At least, that was what their income tax reports claimed, the Supreme Court noted.

Ferdinand Sr.’s net worth was P120,000 in December 1965. Between 1965 and 1984, the Marcoses reported joint income of  P16,408,442. Official salaries accounted for 16 percent, farm income 9 percent, and others 15 percent. Legal practice crested at a whooping 68 percent.

“There is nothing on record (of) any known Marcos client as he had no known law office. He was barred by law from practicing his law profession during his entire presidency. Incredibly, he was still receiving payments almost 20 years after. There are no withholding tax certificates… The joint income tax returns of FM and Imelda cannot, therefore, conceal the skeletons of their kleptocracy.”

The Court followed the money trail to shell foundations. In  June 1971, Marcos Sr. established the Azio Foundation. He executed a power of attorney in favor of Roberto S. Benedicto. Azio morphed into Verso Foundation which was  liquidated.

Then, came Xandy-Wintrop, followed by  Charis-Scolari, Valamo, Spinus Avertina, etc.  They hid wealth “under layers of foundations.” The Marcos spouses were the main beneficiaries. Imee, Ferdinand Jr. and Irene were equal third beneficiaries.

Uray ti bulsek makitana ti cuarta. Don’t bother Bongbong  on what this means. “Proverbs,” by Damiana Eugenio (UP Press 2002), provides its translation: “With money, even the blind can see.”

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com )

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Tags: column , ill-gotten wealth , Juan L. Mercado , marcos family , us court of appeals

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