Malacañang is considering auctioning off the jewelry confiscated from former first lady Imelda Marcos to raise funds for the government’s ongoing response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday, April 16.
According to him, selling part of the Marcoses’ collection of gems has been raised even before the pandemic swept around the world, with President Rodrigo Duterte authorizing the jewelry collection’s public auction last year.
This statement came after Duterte said he was open to selling government assets like the Philippine International Convention Center, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and other properties on Roxas Boulevard to help the government address the COVID-19 crisis, which has infected over 5,000 individuals and put Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine.
Roque noted that Duterte’s action showed that he values his people’s health over everything.
“The people’s health is important to him, so if he needs to sell those infrastructure, he will use the proceeds to take care of the people’s health,” he said.
The Marcoses’ collections of gems, amounting to approximately P700 million, were said to be part of the family’s ill-gotten wealth. They have three collections:
Malacañan, Roumeliotes and Hawaii, named after the places where they were seized.
The “Hawaii Collection” is currently secured at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It consists of 300 pieces of jewelry that includes a Cartier diamond tiara and a 25-carat “extremely rare” pink diamond.
Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, proposed to temporarily suspend loan payments to foreign lenders so the government can aid more affected families and companies under the quarantine.
However, Malacañang dismissed this, saying that the move will have bigger repercussions.
“We have cross-default provisions in our debts, in which if we default on one debt, we will default on all our debts. It will be bloodier for us if our lenders decide to make us pay back all the debts at the same time,”Roque said.
He also assured that the government still has enough funds for now, so suspending loan payments was unnecessary.
“And if (the money) is not enough, the government will first sell its assets before we default on our obligations,” Roque added.