Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is studying “how best to proceed” on the reported offer of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ family to return portion of their alleged ill-gotten wealth back to the government.
Malacañang, on Friday, September 1, assured the public that Duterte will put the nation’s interest first in any possible agreements with the Marcos family.
“We understand that certain parties have indicated to the President that there may be an opportunity for the assets of the Marcos family to be turned over to the Republic,” Duterte’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
According to him, no clear decision on the proposal has been made yet.
“As this matter becomes clearer, we will advise what further action will be taken to finally obtain justice,” the Palace official added.
Earlier this week, Duterte claimed that the Marcoses are willing to return a portion of wealth—including few gold bars—which were accumulated during the two-decade rule of the late dictator.
As of last year, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was able to recover $4 billion of ill-gotten wealth acquired by Marcos and his cronies.
The agency was created in 1986 to go after an estimated $10 billion-worth of cash and assets reportedly plundered by the Marcoses.
Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, the eldest daughter of the late president, said she believed Duterte “could end” the decades-long litigation on the ill-gotten wealth allegedly amassed during her father’s term.
“We trust that the president can end the decades-long case, and our family is still discussing it, but it’s in the hands of our lawyers,” she said.
Asked if the negotiations with the government for the return of questioned assets were ongoing, Imee responded: “Wala pa, wala pa (nothing yet).”
On Wednesday, August 30, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the government may consider the possibility of entering into a compromise agreement with the Marcos family.
“The president is authorized and has the power to make compromise or any agreement with the Marcoses. If there will be a new agreement, there should be an enabling law or initiative law to be issued by the president himself,” he said.
Aguirre, whose department supervises the PCGG, said the possible compromise agreement would need a further study, as it may cause legal repercussions in the cases against the Marcoses.
“That (return of Marcos wealth) could be done under the framework of the law. There could be repercussions of cases being handled by the PCGG,” he explained.
The justice secretary also noted that Duterte’s plan to form a new anti-graft and corruption office should be taken into consideration.
“Although we support the president in the formation of that body, he can consider the option of giving new powers to the PCGG by appointing additional two commissioners to strengthen its jurisdiction,” Aguirre said.
Martial law victims: ‘Unacceptable’
But for victims of human rights during Marcos’ dictatorship, the supposed plan to return some of the family’s ill-gotten wealth is “unacceptable.”
Claimants 1081, a group composed of over 9,000 rights abuse victims during martial law, said that the Marcoses “have no moral or legal rights to choose to return ‘some’ of these ill-gotten wealth.”
“The announcement of President Duterte that the Marcoses will return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth is unacceptable. First, this is a clear admission that the Marcoses still have ill-gotten wealth stolen from the Filipino people during Marcos’ regime,” the group’s executive director, Zenaida Mique, said.
She stressed that if the Marcoses “are sincere in their offer, they should return all their ill-gotten wealth.”
Mique added, “We’re talking here of Filipino people’s money. The government should vigorously pursue the so many forfeiture cases against the Marcoses pending in Sandiganbayan, Supreme Court and other courts.”