POSTSCRIPT / May 31, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Marcos gold to ease our economic woes?

“I have two presidents!” said former first lady Imelda R. Marcos after her son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. presented her last Wednesday his official proclamation as the president-elect by the congressional National Board of Canvassers.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr and his mother, former first lady Imelda R. Marcos.. Photo: Thomas Levinson/ The Daily Beast/ Reuters

That family moment was captured in his YouTube vlog posted on Saturday. (The first Marcos president was his father and namesake who was chief executive from December 1965 until his ouster by the People Power Revolt in 1986. He died in 1989 at age 72.)

Marcos Jr., who garnered 31,629,783 votes, or 58.77 percent of the 53.8 million votes cast for president last May 9, is scheduled to take his oath on June 30, signaling the family’s return to power.

Another video clip in Bongbong’s vlog showed him holding a wine glass and telling his 92-year-old mother, “Sa inyo naman ni Daddy lahat ito eh.” (All of these are for you and Daddy.)

While that family scene fits into an agenda that includes reclaiming the seat of power abandoned by the late dictator, redeeming the family name, and rewriting the history of Marcosian martial law, what’s in it for the people?

Mrs. Marcos, still on her mettle at 92, may have the answer to that sensitive question.

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On Jan. 30, 2009, Mrs. Marcos told this columnist and three other newsmen in an interview at her Bonifacio Global City penthouse that her family’s wealth, most of it in gold instruments in 177 banks, was enough to rehabilitate the Philippines and lift Filipinos from poverty.

A big question then, until now, was how to bring back the hoard even while a debate rages on whether or not the wealth was legally acquired, and what part of it should be turned over to the Philippine treasury.

Why would the family think of using that wealth accumulated over 50 years to improve the quality of life of Filipinos? Because, Mrs. Marcos said, that was the wish and instruction of her late husband.

Bongbong, 64, will soon be the president of some 110 million Filipinos reeling from the double whammy of a pandemic and an anemic economy. He will be chief executive of a government weighed down by a national debt totaling P12.68 trillion.

He will have to quickly generate jobs to ease the 5.8-percent unemployment rate (in March), tame inflation which stands at 3.7 percent (January-April), stimulate small and medium enterprises with priority policies, boost food production, and take other urgent measures.

After Marcos was proclaimed president-elect, he told the media: “I ask you all to pray for me. Wish me well. I want to do well because when a president does well, the country does well.”

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Among his campaign promises, btw, was to bring down the price of rice to P20/kilo from the present average of P30. When asked in his first presscon after his proclamation how he would do it, he said that the price he gave was just an “aspiration” still to be worked out.

Now we’re wondering if using their hidden wealth to lift Filipinos from poverty – as allegedly instructed by the elder Marcos and told us by Mrs. Marcos – is just another political “aspiration.”

In our 2009 interview, Mrs. Marcos showed us purported documents (such as gold certificates) supporting her claim to immense wealth waiting to be tapped.

What needs to be done to open the Marcos trove? She beat around the question, but my understanding was that it could be unlocked once another Marcos becomes president. Or if a fair deal is struck with the government.

This June 30, another Marcos is set to take over as president. He should find it easy to strike a deal with his own family – if the supposed plan to tap Marcos’ wealth for the poor population is not just another political “aspiration”.

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For context, here are updated excerpts of our Postscript of Feb. 1, 2009, titled “Given a chance, Imelda vows to banish poverty”:

If former first lady Imelda R. Marcos were given a chance to access her family’s wealth locked in various banks worldwide and pursue her dreams, there would be no more poor Filipinos in about two years!

Yes, you heard it right from Imeldific! All this noise about many Filipinos not having enough for basic needs would vanish when she brings to work the fabulous wealth that her late husband Ferdinand had amassed.

The other day I was with three other newsmen chatting with Superma’am in her penthouse at McKinley Place in Bonifacio Global City. 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 assisted her with media details, that I was afraid to go near the precious items. “Don’t worry,” he kidded, “if you touch something and it breaks, you take it home.” (Lito died of an aneurysm at age 78 in September 2014 in a Manila hospital.)

Just how much is the Marcos wealth worth? Ma’am just smiled when asked — 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 big rooms where voluminous documents were neatly arranged on long tables. She said those papers were the legal basis for her claiming valuable assets, mainly gold, stashed away in banks in 72 countries.

To have 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 US advice (read: pressure). At that time, gold was priced at $420 per ounce (versus $1,856 yesterday, May 30, according to MONEX Live Gold Spot Prices).

Marcos reportedly had gold deposits in 177 banks, having started hoarding the precious metal 10 years before he became president in 1966. Mrs. Marcos explained that her husband was lawyering for mining firms and quietly amassing gold.

(Is this another Marcos “aspiration”? I think it is.)

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 31, 2022)

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