When no one blushesBy Juan L. Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer
What sets people apart from swine is the capacity to blush. “I will go wash,” wrote Shakespeare in Coriolanus. “And when my face is fair, you shall perceive/Whether I blush or no.”
Did Imelda Marcos blush when she insisted that Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would be ideal for president come 2016? He’d “continue the legacy of the former president.” The “New Society,” she insisted, was “the brightest period in Philippine history.” That ignores 3,257 persons “salvaged,” 737 desaparecidos, plus thousands detained without trial under the “New Society.”
Ferdinand Jr. played coy: “When I was young, I really didn’t want to be involved in politics.” And now that he’s older? “We shall see,” Junior said, despite festering accusations of family sleaze. The US Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) slammed Ferdinand Jr. and mother with a $353.6-million contempt judgment a year ago. Why? They tried to smuggle paintings and other artworks subject to court decision. “Contumacious conduct,” the judge said in imposing a daily fine of $100,000. Did Junior blush? “Innocence is not accustomed to blush,” writer Jean Moliere pointed out.
That’s peanuts in a 14-year kleptocracy. Ferdinand Sr. and Imelda Marcos used aliases William Saunders and Jane Ryan to open their first Swiss bank account. They plunked down $950,000 in March 1968, reported Mark Fineman in Los Angeles Times (Oct. 2). Marcos’ salary then, as president, was $5,600. The former first lady also used the alias John Lewis, the Honolulu hearing heard.
“Crying and clutching a rosary, Imelda took the Fifth Amendment more than 200 times.” Lawyers questioned her on allegations that she and her husband had stolen billions. “The hearing came just 24 hours after her husband, deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos, invoked his Fifth Amendment right 197 times during a similar deposition….”
The Presidential Commission on Good Government stole her jewels, Imelda complained in 2012. These are three batches of confiscated gems. One is the “Malacañang Collection,” found by 1986 People Power demonstrators. The “Honolulu Batch” was surrendered to US government, after racketeering charges were dropped.
The third, now in Bangko Sentral vaults, is the “Roumeliotes Set”—60 gems confiscated from Greek national Demetriou Roumeliotes. A 37-carat diamond, crafted by Bulgari, is the centerpiece. “They were inside a package addressed to Imelda when seized,” Arab News reported. Roumeliotes denied ownership, and later said the gems were fakes.
No, snapped reputable auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Imelda agreed. “The jewelry was taken out of Malacañang without my knowledge, much less [with my] consent, between Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, 1986,” she said in a court petition.
“They are my jewels.” The Aquino administration should return them, instead of auctioning them off. Did Imelda blush? “Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive/Half wishing they were dead to save the shame,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote.
In between, there has been theft on a grand scale. Take the unanimous Supreme Court decision of July 2003. GR No. 152154 directed that Marcos secret Swiss deposits, of US$658,175,373, be “forfeited” to the government.
The Swiss government earlier returned the loot, mainly through the efforts of the late Haydee Yorac of the PCGG. Until that forfeiture decision, the Philippine National Bank held the boodle in escrow. Imelda, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, Irene Marcos-Araneta and Ferdinand Jr. tried—but failed—to add that to their fortunes.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism pinpointed three Filipinos who hold secret offshore trusts in the Virgin Islands: Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, then Rep. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and then Sen. Manuel Villar. In the 1986 People Power uproar, Imee left behind a notebook that contained the names of her father’s dummies. Does she blush over the Marcos record? “’Tis not on youth’s smooth cheek the blush alone, which fades so fast,” Lord Byron wrote. “But the tender bloom of heart is gone, ere youth itself be past.”
Ferdinand Sr. as president and Imelda as minister of human settlements were of modest means. Or at least that was what their income tax returns claimed, the Supreme Court noted. In December 1965, Ferdinand Sr.’s net worth was P120,000. Between 1965 and 1984, the Marcoses reported a 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 whopping 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.”
Then came Xandy-Wintrop, followed by Charis-Scolari, Valamo, Spinus Avertina, etc. etc. They hid wealth “under layers of foundations.” The Marcos spouses were the main beneficiaries, and Imee, Ferdinand Jr. and Irene equal third beneficiaries.
A day before Ferdinand Jr.’s name emerged in the pork barrel scam, Imelda unveiled presidential hopes for 2016. At the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, whistle-blower Benhur Luy said lawmakers would receive 50-percent kickback from pork barrel funds.
So, was this a preemptive strike? If so, Oliver Cromwell’s 1653 stinging rebuke to England’s “Rump Parliament” is apt: “We griev’d, we sigh’d, we wept; we never blushed before.”
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