(UPDATED 2 9:35 P.M) MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte stirred another hornet’s nest Tuesday afternoon by saying the Marcoses might be returning some of their wealth to the national coffers, sparking speculations among groups who fought martial law that there may be secret negotiations between the government and the dictator’s heirs.
Among the first to react was ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, who said the President’s remarks “were vague and should be further clarified.”
Tinio then posed a series of questions:
“Are there ongoing negotiations between Malacañang and the Marcos family for the return of plundered wealth? Does it involve all the plundered wealth or is the amount negotiable? Is the President suggesting that the Marcoses will not be held criminally liable?”
At the very least, said the activist lawmaker, “there should be transparency regarding these and similar concerns.”
Duterte had recently said government was studying the possibility of abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency created by the first executive order of Corazon Aquino when she became president after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by the 1986 People Power Revolt. The PCGG had the past three decades been in charge of recovering alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.
‘A few gold bars’
In remarks at the oath-taking in Malacañang of local officials, Duterte said, “they’ll open everything and probably return, yung mga nakita lang [only the ones that were discovered]. . . Sabi niya, pati yung [He said, it could include] a few gold bars. I will accept the explanation… And they are ready to return.”
Duterte added, “Sabi nila na, malaki ang deficit mo, maybe the projected spending pero hindi ito malaki baka makatulong, but we are ready to open and bring back> sabi niya, pati yung a few gold bars, hindi ganun kalaki, hindi Fort Knox.”
He quoted the Marcos children as saying “the father was just protecting the economy for the [eventuality] na umalis siya,” in apparent reference to repeated claims by the Marcos heirs that Ferdinand had been keeping gold bars that he supposedly legitimately acquired. “He thought of regaining Malacañang, that is why ganito ang lumabas na parang naitago [it appeared as if he meant to conceal it],” said Duterte.
The President said he will “accept the explanation whether or not it’s true, wala na eh, and they are ready to return . . . how much they will give me an accounting.”
He added they are trying to look “for a guy not identified with anybody to handle the negotiation.” He floated the possibility of tapping a former Chief Justice. “Sila na lang mag-usap, and then another CPA, maybe a representative of all that is accepted also by all. “Tatlong tao ‘yanng mag-usap sa kanila. And I’m happy na we come clean . . . make something worthwhile for the Filipino.”
Other solons weigh in
Other activist lawmakers, meanwhile, were as befuddled and dismayed as Rep. Tinio.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said, “It’s a bit odd that the President is speaking for the Marcoses on this issue when the latter have the media stature to make the commitment themselves.”
He wondered aloud if this would also mean “that they are willing to admit that they had indeed amassed ill-gotten wealth and are willing to subject themselves to the justice mill for crimes against the people?”
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin noted, “The Marcoses are accused of high crimes against the Filipino people from massive human rights violations to amassing $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth. If they return the stolen wealth and make a public confession of their deeds, without conditions nor seeking immunity from criminal prosecution, it is an unexpected miracle.”
Otherwise, said Villarin, “this is just pure propaganda to lure the public to a false sense of reality where public outrage over killings have risen to a crescendo. Filipinos should know better when we are taken for a ride or not. This could be much ado over nothing.” With a report by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon
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