Duterte says Marcoses willing to return ‘ill-gotten wealth’

The family of former President Ferdinand Marcos has expressed willingness to return their alleged ill-gotten wealth back to government, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday, August 29.

Citing an unnamed spokesman, Duterte claimed that the family is willing to “open everything” and return the wealth—including a few gold bars—which were accumulated during the two-decade rule of the late dictator.

“I won’t name the spokesman… the family said they will open everything and hopefully return those found [by the PCGG that should be returned to the Philippine government],” Duterte said during the oathtaking of new appointees at Malacañang.

He added, “They said, we are [willing] to open [the books] and bring it [ill-gotten wealth] back, including a few gold bars. Just a few [gold bars], but they will return it.”

Duterte said he would create a team to negotiate and facilitate the turnover of the wealth. He pointed out that he will accept any explanations from the Marcoses “whether or not it is true.”

He also revealed that back channel talks between the government and the political family are ongoing. The president, however, could not say how much would be returned to the government.

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.

The president said he initially wanted to abolish the PCGG but decided not to do so, saying he would possibly create a new office to deal with graft and corruption in the government.

“[The] PCGG is focused on the Marcos wealth. I wanted to abolish it but people might say I abolished it as it was on the verge of discovering something,” the president remarked.

He went on to say, “I [will] just name it good government but there is already an existing one. Maybe an anti-graft [agency] and I am looking for somebody to handle.”

For her part, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos said she believed Duterte “could end” the decades-long litigation on the ill-gotten wealth allegedly amassed during her father’s term.

Asked if the negotiations with the government for the return of questioned assets were ongoing, Imee responded: “Wala pa, wala pa (nothing yet).”

Legal repercussions

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday, August 30 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.”

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