Power and greed
Throughout history, rulers have handled enormous power associated with their positions. They left indelible footprints on how they dealt with such power, and that became the gauge by which history has judged them. The depth of their footprints indicates the kind of leaders they have been — if they have made a deep impact on peoples’ lives and changed them for the better, or for the worse. Or they may not have been able to make a significant impact at all, as in the case of mediocre leaders or those who can only lead when propped up by forces more powerful than the institution of leadership itself.
Leaders tend to become drunk with enormous power and this becomes the wellspring for boundless greed to set in, making them oblivious to why they became leaders in the first place. When leaders become inordinately greedy, they also resort to totalitarian rule — the better to stifle legitimate dissent and prevent those who want to replace them through brutal means.
When we talk about how power has turned one whole family into an avaricious, rapacious coterie of political leaders, no other emblematic example comes to mind: the Marcoses or the family of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Through his declaration of martial law in 1972, the former dictator institutionalized greed that gave the Marcos family the golden opportunity for wantonly plundering government resources to the tune of billions of pesos.
Massive popular protests against the Marcoses culminated in the historic bloodless people power revolution on Feb. 25, 1986, with millions marching along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. After this historic event, the entire Marcos household was airlifted, courtesy of the government of the United States of America, to the city of Honolulu, Hawaii.
At that time, I was a graduate student at the University of Hawaii on an East-West Center scholarship. Together with my fellow Filipino student grantees, I sat down for hours in one part of the vast UH campus holding placards that expressed how we strongly resented the US government for bringing the entire Marcos family to Honolulu.
I learned later from a Filipino-American friend who used to work in one of the biggest shopping malls in downtown Honolulu that immediately after settling down there, Imelda requested the management of one of the shops to close it for her “exclusive shopping.” The former first lady was accompanied by two bodyguards, each one holding a briefcase filled with crisp US dollars. She paid for everything in cash, and most of the items were luxury brands of clothing and other accessories, including expensive shoes (of which she is globally notorious for owning more than a thousand pairs).
On Feb. 28, 1986, Lisa Levitt Ryckman, reporting for Associated Press, wrote that a US government C-141 transport plane that accompanied the exiled Marcos family to the United States “…was filled with millions in cash (US dollars and Philippine pesos), US certificates of deposit, deeds of sale of US landholdings, and a cache of weapons…” Also among the Marcos family’s personal effects were valuable jewelry pieces belonging to Imelda, including an estimated $200,000 worth of gold bullion. All these were reportedly stashed in baby diaper boxes.
Fast forward to 2020: One of the Marcoses’ staunchest allies, Jose Calida, appointed by President Duterte as the 48th solicitor general, is moving heaven and earth to discredit the election of Vice President Leni Robredo in favor of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Calida recently pushed for a “quo warranto” case against Justice Marvic Leonen similar to that filed against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Leonen, a non-Duterte appointee to the high court, is also the justice-in-charge in Marcos Jr.’s election protest against Robredo.
The desire for power, and the avarice that springs from it tends to rub off easily on those who are close friends of avaricious heads of state. The current solicitor general manifests how he has imbibed such covetous behavior, amassing wealth in dubious service provider contracts with the government for his own security company.
Comments to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.