THE Marcos regional political clout, buttressed by ill-gotten wealth, has been a specter hovering over every administration these past 30 years, threatening havoc on the electoral process, extracting political concessions from each major national candidate every sexennial on one hand, and applying carrot and stick tactics to advance family agenda on the other. All in the overarching drive to rehabilitate their name. They obviously have succeeded as they now have the audacity to offer through the Deegong, no less, to return a portion of this wealth.
This wealth, “…the riches (gold bars and part of their alleged hidden wealth) were taken only to secure the Philippine economy at that time”(Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News, August 31, 2017).With this return, the Marcos family can help erase the country’s deficits, and fund the social programs of the country. How nice of the Marcoses! Now, Ferdinand can truly be regarded as a Philippine Hero – one whose “tadhana ay naiguhit din”.
The insinuation is that this wealth was not plundered from the Filipino people. The family simply “borrowed” the country’s wealth for safekeeping. As PRRD intimated, “I will accept the explanation whether or not it is true, kasi wala na, e”
There is something wrong with this picture. Especially for those millennials who aren’t familiar with how Ferdinand Marcos plundered the country’s coffers during his two-decade rule. Perhaps a cursory description of the magnitude will help illuminate the fruits of this perversion ending in 1986.
According to the Supreme Court estimate, Marcos had accumulated $10 billion while in office (The Guardian, Nick Davies, May 7, 2016),while his annual pay during those years averaged $13,500. Now, do the math!
Imelda Marcos boasted in 1990, taunting the Filipino, that “…there is more money the government is not yet aware of…we own practically everything in the Philippines”.
In the past 30 years, since the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was created by the Cory Aquino government, it has retrieved money from five Swiss accounts, half a dozen crony companies, most of the coconut levy funds and proceeds from auctioned paintings, jewelry and real estate properties totaling $3.7 billion. Still far short of the estimated $10 billion loot.
I will not review the extent and methods of the plunder but would direct the reader to several links one of which was written on May 7, 2016 by Nick Davies of The Guardian, who was allowed by the PCGG to do research in its archives.
The focus of this piece is the implication of PRRD’s pronouncements. The President is as much frustrated as the citizenry who have been played by the Marcos family. But more importantly the people need to understand the anomalies and corruption underlining the hunt for the Marcos wealth. The 30-year saga could generate reams and books on the bungling on the part of the government and the dissipation of those sequestered Marcos assets placed under the incompetent hands and thieves in the PCGG, our government trustees. They have reduced the search-for-the-wealth narrative into “thieves stealing from thieves”.
Our culture of government service today is largely influenced by the legacy of the Martial Law years that we have yet to purge ourselves of. This innovative type of impunity can only be described as kleptocracy– the mass thievery by a cabal of political and economic leaders that sucked dry the marrow of the governed. This centralized corruption through “crony capitalism”, was a Marcos attempt to create his brand of oligarchy replacing that of the old. Marcos put in place his cronies not only in individual businesses but in control of whole industries: banking and financial services, coco-oil production refining and exports, sugar and banana plantations, state finance projects, infrastructure construction, etc. The Marcos wealth was dispersed among these few chosen few dummies, who after his exile and demise, compromised with a naïve Cory government to surrender portions and legitimize the rest of the ill-gotten assets still in their possession. Crony capitalism and its effects were so successful that the practice still resonates up to the present. “Businesses thrive not as a result of risk taken for them, but as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class”(Wikipedia). The residue can be glimpsed in the current oligarchy in control of political parties and elected officials thereby capturing key regulatory agencies.
But the Deegong’s pronouncements of late to accept a return of a “portion of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth” will have bigger reverberations on the body politic and especially for our millennials for generations to come. These are very disturbing.
This ill-gotten wealth was never acknowledged publicly by the Marcos family as stolen. A convenient euphemism is substituted. These assets instead were “borrowed for safekeeping” for the Filipino with presumably the intention of returning them at some future date. And this date has arrived. The family has been restored and thriving; Imelda, an elected representative of Ilocos Norte; Imee, provincial governor and Bongbong, who might just win an election protest and the vice presidency and could then move on to become the country’s President.
How about accountability and justice? And what of those who suffered human rights violations, torture and summary executions through those dark years. Should we just leave this to karma – that nebulous justice of the universe at some future date for retribution?
The question at bar is, how will the Deegong finally handle this? Is he as powerless and feeble as to accept this ridiculous euphemism of “borrowed assets for safekeeping” and play along with this mockery?
Mr. President, if you scour through social media, their message is clear, and simple. “Can you not apply your vaunted ‘tokhang’ solution to these high and mighty and just make samples of them too? Get the wealth back to your people and punish the plunderers the way you know how. We have given you 80 percent support despite the daily dead bodies of the dregs of society strewn in the streets nightly. What’s a few more?”
God forbid, that I may have to re-teach my grandchildren – crime does indeed pay! But don’t steal…just borrow for safekeeping, and return the same when able!