POSTSCRIPT / January 27, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can Marcos wealth sway the elections?

We have nearly forgotten an old sales pitch of former first lady Imelda R. Marcos about using their family’s wealth stashed away worldwide to lift Filipinos from poverty and usher in a golden era of a peaceful and prosperous Philippines.

We were reminded of that line when we saw yesterday an old interview clip showing Mrs. Marcos telling economist/TV host Winnie Monsod of their hiding some 7,000 tons of gold in the basement of the Marcos residence in San Juan City.

Imelda Marcos on her 85th birthday in The Kingmaker. (Photo credits: Bloomberg/ Lauren Greenfield).

The clip has been spliced ingeniously into an election campaign video where presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was saying that he has not seen any of the supposed gold hoard long associated with his family and now raised as an election issue.

He distanced himself from the gold talk, saying in Filipino: “I haven’t seen any gold like that. I know many people who are digging for gold everywhere but I have not seen any gold that they are talking about… Maybe they know something, they should tell me. I need the gold.”

But with his video clip juxtaposed with that one of his mother (who with Monsod looked at least 10 years younger in their old video) the viewer is led to conclude that one of them, or both, must be lying in their conflicting claims about a gold hoard.

One story is that the Marcoses have been promising or at least hinting to voters that they would use their fabled Yamashita and Tallano gold hoards to rehabilitate the lives of Filipinos, especially the poor masses – that is if they elect Bongbong president in May.

The Yamashita treasure is believed to be part of the loot buried in the Cordilleras by Japanese troops under Imperial Japanese Army Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita before the end of their three-year occupation of the Philippines in the last war.

The other gold hoard being mentioned is supposedly that of the Tallano family who reportedly named the elder Marcos a trustee authorized to use their pile of precious metal to establish Marcos’ idea of “the former grandeur of the Maharlika.”

We were told by Mrs. Marcos in an interview in 2009 that her late husband had “bequeathed” the family’s wealth (which includes gold and bank deposits) to the Filipino people, implying that they would plow back their hidden riches to the masses.

With us in the interview with Mrs. Marcos in her luxury penthouse in Bonifacio Global City were three other journalists. The meeting was arranged by Lito Gorospe, her assistant for media affairs, who is now deceased.

I also had in 1967 a one-on-one in the Music Room in Malacañang, where Mrs. Marcos spent close to an hour denying a story I was working on about then-President Marcos reportedly sending soldiers to dig out a golden buwaya (crocodile) figure under the choir loft of a church in Laguna.

Until today I have been wondering how she learned that I was pursuing information about a life-size solid-gold figure of a crocodile having been dug out in the dead of night, cut up, and hauled away on military trucks.

 Imelda talks of banishing poverty

We reprint below excerpts from our “Postscript” of Feb. 1, 2009, recalling our interview with Mrs. Marcos on the family’s hidden wealth:

“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 decades.

“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 were 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.’

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“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 large 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 several banks in 72 countries.

“To give you an idea, in the Bank of England alone, Marcos reportedly deposited 205 tons of gold in 1981 to back up paper money to be printed in London against American advice (read: pressure). At that time, gold was priced at $420 per ounce, versus $927 at present.

“Marcos had bullion in 177 banks, starting his gold hoard 10 years before he became president in 1965. Mrs. Marcos said her husband was lawyering for many mining firms and quietly amassing gold.

“This is the wealth that she said the Marcoses could use to raise Filipinos from poverty and undeserved shame.

“Aside from the gold hoard, Mrs. Marcos said their assets include controlling shares in big Philippine corporations that the family has been trying to recover from the businessmen and former cronies holding them.

“She showed thick folders of contracts and stock certificates that, she said, showed Marcos was a controlling shareholder of many giant firms.

“Related to this, she noted the Department of Justice resolution for the filing of syndicated estafa charges against a prominent family in the hotel-restaurant business and their associates.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 27, 2022)

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