WAY BACK in 2009, former first lady Imelda Marcos told this columnist and three other newsmen that her family’s wealth, most of it in gold kept in 177 banks abroad, is enough to rehabilitate the Philippines and lift Filipinos from poverty.
A big question is how to bring back the hidden hoard while everybody is debating whether or not the wealth was stolen by then president Ferdinand Marcos, and what part of it should be turned over to the Philippine treasury.
Why would the family offer (they do not say “return”) their wealth accumulated over 50 years to be used to improve the quality of life of Filipinos? Because, Imelda told us, that was the wish and instruction of her late husband.
The Marcoses’ avowed intention, while laudable, did not ring true to me, because I did not sense even just a hint of a concession that part of the wealth was tainted. Also, the paucity of details left me guessing.
Imelda showed us what appeared to be instruments supporting her claim to incalculable wealth waiting to be tapped. The documents were laid out neatly on long tables in two large rooms adjoining her penthouse in Bonifacio Global City.
What needs to be done to open the Marcos trove? She beat around the question, but my understanding was that it would be unlocked once another Marcos becomes president. Or if a fair deal is struck with the government.
(More details are in my Postscript of Feb. 1, 2009, archived at manilamail.com. It can also be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/ybbmmof6)
There was talk then that Imelda (80 at the time) wanted her son Bongbong to run for president. But being unprepared for the big league, he marked time in the Senate while waiting for 2016. Noynoy Aquino’s winning the presidency in 2000 ruled out any deal on the wealth issue.
In 2016, Bongbong was still unable to jockey for a presidential run and, under pressure to move forward, detoured to the vice presidency route. But he lost to Leni Robredo, whom he is now trying to dislodge via a protest.
President Duterte disclosed Tuesday, meanwhile, that his and Marcos’ representatives were talking about freeing part of the hidden assets — which critics promptly labelled as ill-gotten wealth that must be returned in full, to the last gold bar, with interest.
There is also concern that with their bulging war chest, the Marcoses might try buying a favorable decision at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that is hearing Bongbong’s protest. The vice presidency is just one short step to a Malacañang homecoming.
• Imelda vows to banish poverty
BELOW is a portion of our Postscript of Feb. 1, 2009, titled “Given a chance, Imelda vows to banish poverty”:
GOODBYE, POVERTY. If former first lady Imelda R. Marcos were to be given a chance to access her family’s wealth locked in various banks worldwide and pursue her dreams, there would be no more poor Filipino in about two years.
Yes, you heard it right from Imeldific. All this noise about many Filipinos not having enough for basic needs will vanish, almost like magic, when she brings to work the fabulous wealth that her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos, amassed over 50 years.
The other day I happened to be with three other newsmen chatting with Superma’am in her penthouse at McKinley Place in Fort Bonifacio. She was in fresh green, still poised and charming — although, she confessed, the knees are creaky at times.
Her receiving room was almost choked with choice art objects. I told Lito Gorospe, who still assists her with media details, I was afraid to go near the precious items. “Don’t worry,” he kidded me, “if you touch something and it breaks, you take it home.” (Lito died of aneurysm at age 78 in September 2014 in a Manila hospital. – fdp)
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GOLD HOARD. Just how much is the fabled Marcos wealth? Ma’am just smiled — she must have heard the question popped a million times before –and said something about some really wealthy people not being able to count their money.
Later she opened two rooms where voluminous documents were neatly arranged on long tables that, she said, were the legal basis for her claiming valuable assets, mainly gold, stashed away in banks in 72 countries.
To give you an idea, in the Bank of England alone, Marcos deposited 205 tons of gold in 1981 to back up paper money to be printed in London against US advice (read: pressure). At that time, gold was priced at $420 per ounce, versus $927 at present. (Yesterday, 09/02/2017, the price was around $1,325/oz. – fdp)
Marcos had bullions in 177 banks, starting his gold hoard 10 years before he became president in 1966. Mrs. Marcos said her husband was lawyering for many mining firms and quietly amassing gold.
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U.S. ISSUES. On the side, Mrs. Marcos said the days of the mighty dollar are numbered. She said it would be more prudent to have the peso backed by gold — as her late husband had wanted — instead of pegging it to the shaky dollar.
She said that that gold-vs-dollar issue was among the reasons why Marcos earned the ire of the US and moved it to help depose him in 1986.
There was also the issue of the military bases, she said, whose original 99-year lease (in perpetuity) Marcos reduced to 25 years and later to just five years while raising the rent to $700 million for their 23 military installations throughout the islands.
Then President Marcos cut the lease period, she said, because 30 years of continuous occupation could transform the bases into US possessions. (The bases agreement expired in 1991. — fdp)
Mrs. Marcos said their assets include shares in big corporations entrusted to some businessmen and cronies. She showed contracts and stock certificates to prove that Marcos held controlling equity in many giant firms.