MANILA, Philippines – Granting immunity will not absolve the Marcos family from their criminal liabilities, former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said on Thursday, September 7.
According to Pimentel, who is also the former chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which investigated the Marcos wealth, the possible immunity will only cover the civil liabilities of the family.
“On the immunity, that will depend on the outcome of the negotiation for the return of the Marcos wealth because returning the ill-gotten wealth only covers the civil aspect of the cases,” Pimentel said.
There are at least 120 cases pending before the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court in connection with the Marcoses’ allegedly plundered cash and assets during the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ two-decade control.
“Under our laws, you can settle the civil aspects [of the cases]. But as to the criminal aspect, that’s another thing. That would depend on evidence,” Pimentel added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that the Marcoses are “ready to return” a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, including a few gold bars, to the government.
In a chance interview on Tuesday, September 7, Duterte said the family “will not agree to return (the money if) you have them jailed.”
Saying he could not act independently on the matter, Duterte sought approval from Congress to start negotiations with the Marcoses. He also urged Congress to pass a law granting immunity to them.
“So, I said they [lawmakers] have to craft a law on that and that is immunity. If I were a Marcos, why would I return the (money) if you’re going to have me jailed? I’d rather reserve it (for) my children and grandchildren,” Duterte told reporters.
The president, however, clarified that the family did not ask for immunity in exchange for returning their wealth.
He also affirmed that he is taking a “neutral stand” on the possibility of granting immunity to the Marcoses.
“They did not ask any immunity,” Duterte said. “And I could not guarantee it also. I know that I’m not the proper authority to do that.”
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency tasked to recover the late president’s ill-gotten wealth, has so far recovered at least $4 billion out of the estimated $10 billion from the Marcoses and their cronies.
Duterte previously mentioned plans to abolish PCGG and is considering the formation of a new anti-graft body.
Pimentel, however, said it is more practical to appoint new officials instead of a creating new agency.
“And if President Digong can trust PCGG officials, then probably the better way would be for them to handle it,” Pimentel said.
He added, “If the people here (PCGG) do not have his confidence, then, as president, he has the right to appoint the new members of that body who can really recover the Marcos wealth for the benefit of the people.”