Debating the Marcos stolen wealth
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., aka Bongbong, was untruthful in saying in last Sunday’s vice-presidential live TV debate that President Aquino and the Liberal Party blocked the compensation of the tens of thousands human rights violations victims who suffered during the Marcos dictatorship.
President Aquino had, in fact, signed in 2013 Republic Act No. 10368. The law allotted P10 billion for the victims and for the construction of a memorial museum and library that would preserve proof (documents, stories, books and other archival materials) of that dark era, and to honor those who fought to restore freedom.
If indeed there was a “blocking,” it was technically the 30-year-old Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that stood in the way, not the Liberal Party of the President as Marcos said by virtue of PCGG’s task to discover, recover and return to the national coffers the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. That is, despite the Hawaii court ruling awarding $2 billion (P80 billion) to close to 9,539 claimants who filed the class suit against the Marcos estate.
And so it has been a case of finders keepers, that is, who gets to the loot first. So far, the winning claimants’ lawyers headed by Robert Swift have found two sets of loots (cash and art) that meant two distributions to claimants. But these are peanuts compared to the $2 billion that the Hawaii court has ruled on and what are still out there to be found or claimed.
The fact is, the Aquino administration is separately (emphasis on the word “separately”) compensating the victims with P10 billion sourced from the Marcos loot recovered by PCGG from the Marcos Swiss accounts. It might take one more year for the Human Rights Violations Victims Claims Board (HRVVCB) to finish processing the 75,000 claims.
But there is more to the partly recovered Marcos loot, the PCGG and the Department of Justice on one side and the claimants on the other side. More later.
Back to Sunday’s debate. None of the six VP candidates, except Leni Robredo, countered Marcos Jr.’s untruthful statement; but her counterargument was lost in the din of so many other heated exchanges. I wished she had added forcefully that 75,000 claims are being processed by the claims board so that some justice, in the form of monetary compensation—and though to be given belatedly (30 years after the dictator fell in disgrace)—could be dispensed. Just as important as the issue of the monetary compensation to be sourced from the loot is the sheer number of those who had suffered.
I have been to the claims board offices in the University of the Philippines campus and saw for myself the shelves lined with tens of thousands of folders that contain accounts of suffering, death and destruction during Marcos’ martial rule. A disclosure: I was one of the almost 7,000 claimants in whose favor the Hawaii court ruled; I am one of the 75,000 claimants whose cases are being processed by the HRVVCB pursuant to RA 10368. (My case is Docket No. 2014-14-0026.) Two separate claims.
By falsely arguing during the VP debate that the compensation was being “blocked,” the dictator’s son and namesake was admitting that compensation was due. He was therefore openly admitting that 1) indeed, there are victims waiting to be compensated because their rights were violated during his father’s rule; and 2) indeed, the Marcos hidden, ill-gotten wealth exists, some of which have been recovered.
A question on the Marcos ill-gotten wealth now being asked before the Sandiganbayan is: Are the recovered wealth (money, art) now in government’s possession outside of the Hawaii court’s decision and out of reach of the claimants in the Hawaii class suit? Or could most of the 9,539 members of the class suit claim part of it to fully cover the $2 billion (P80 billion) awarded to them by the Hawaii court?
Last week, several members of the Marcos Human Rights Litigation filed a motion to intervene in Forfeiture Case No. 141 which is pending in the Sandiganbayan. This forfeiture case, which has been ongoing since 1991, seeks to confiscate all Marcos properties. According to the claimants’ lead counsel Swift, the PCGG is using the forfeiture case to try and confiscate 150 artworks bought by Imelda Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s. The basis for the intervention, Swift said, “is the existence of strong evidence the PCGG and the (DOJ) may have committed fraud on the Court.”
Said Swift: “The PCGG has long touted its success in recovering over $4 billion from properties owned by the Marcoses and their cronies. But a secret objective of the PCGG under Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino has been to nullify the judgment obtained by 9,539 Filipino human rights (violations) victims by preventing them from executing on Marcos assets. The PCGG has done so by making new claims before the Sandiganbayan whenever the (victims) initiate execution. It did so as to the Arelma assets and it is currently doing so as to the Marcos artwork. New evidence strongly suggests that the PCGG and (DOJ) were, and are, withholding material evidence from the Sandiganbayan.”
The intervenors are concerned that the Sandiganbayan is considering awarding the Philippine government all the Marcos artwork. In 2009 the Sandiganbayan awarded the government a judgement as to the Arelma case, where Jose B. Campos (who controlled properties for the Marcoses) and the government settled for the return of 28 properties he held for the Marcoses in exchange for civil and criminal immunity for himself and his family.
The question: Did the PCGG and DOJ notify the Sandiganbayan about this settlement or did they willfully withhold this information?
More on this another time.
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