THE Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) insists that the $10 million settlement from the artworks owned by former first lady and now Rep. Imelda Marcos of Ilocos Norte province is owned by the government.
“The Commission wishes to reiterate the government’s sovereign claim on the ill-gotten wealth acquired by the Marcoses, including paintings bought with the Filipino people’s money,” PCGG chairman Andres Bautista said in a statement issued on Saturday.
The government, he said, has been working hard to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses which rightfully belong to the Filipino people as a whole.
“The human rights victims’ claims are separate and distinct from the state. Their claims are derived from a U.S. Court judgment in their favor against the Marcos estate, which can be enforced against the Marcoses’ personal property. Hence, ill-gotten wealth, and assets should be the subject matter of recovery for the National Treasury,” the PCGG chief further stressed.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier signed Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act into law, a landmark legislation which provides compensation to thousands of human rights victims during the Marcos dictatorship.
Under this law, a P10 billion funds or roughly $230 million, plus accrued interest, has been set aside and appropriated to finance the victims’ claims.
Bautista the PCGG has been actively and continuously holding discussions with the current owner of one of these paintings. The former first lady reportedly sold the artworks to a foreign art collector.
“If the latter reached a settlement with the lawyers of the Marcos human rights victims to “buy peace” then that is the possessor’s prerogative; but this in no way diminishes the government’s legal claims and will not be a factor in our assertion of such claims, whether this be in the form of a legal suit or an independent settlement,” he said.
The legal counsels of the human rights victims on Friday said that the victims will receive a $10 million settlement from the proceeds of the artworks.
Lawyers Robert Swift and Rod Domingo said some 9, 000 Filipinos who sued the Marcoses will benefit from the money.
According to them, the settlement derives from litigation in New York City by the victims to recover on their judgments against the Marcoses.
Immediately after the Marcoses fled to Hawaii in February 1986, more than 200 pieces of artwork purchased by Imelda Marcos disappeared from the Marcoses townhouse in New York.
In October last year, Vilma Bautista, a former aide of Marcos, along with her two nephews, was charged of selling artworks that the former first lady acquired during her husband’s presidency. These artworks, said to be worth millions of pesos, include Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphease” and “L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil”.
The paintings, which the Philippine government claims it owns, were lost when the late strongman was removed from presidency in 1986.
The PCGG earlier said that it will testify in the theft and tax fraud case filed against Marcos’ former assistant.
The New York District Attorney’s Office has summoned the Commission to testify against Bautista and her two nephews for illegally acquiring and selling artworks owned by Marcos.
The trial is scheduled on October 7 this year. The defendants earlier pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan state court and were released on a $175,000 bond.
The PCGG has clarified that it will not present any evidence for the tax evasion and illegal possession case but will send a witness to answer on questions during the trial, as the Commission believes the paintings should be returned to the government.