Following President Duterte’s claim that the Marcos family offered to return some of their wealth to the country, a senior politician has claimed Imelda Marcos once offered to hand back 7,000 tons of gold.
Former Manila mayor and now Buhay Representative Lito Atienza recalled a conversation with the former first lady in which she raised the issue of the gold. The hoard would be worth nearly $300 billion.
Speaking today (Wednesday, August 30), the politician said the offer was made when they were at a wedding “in the 2000s”. He claims Mrs Marcos said: “I’ll liberate the nation from foreign debt”.
“I heard directly from Congresswoman Imelda Marcos when I was a mayor,” he said. “She said that she wants to return the gold to the government so the country will be free from debt.
“I told her, ‘why don’t you do it?’ But she said a superpower was interfering”. He did not name the superpower that is allegedly blocking the release of the gold.
Government estimates have pegged the ill-gotten gains of the Marcos family at about $10 billion. However, on a number of occasions Mrs Marcos has hinted that the family may have located part of the legendary Yamashita Treasure. This vast fortune, looted from across Southeast Asia, was allegedly buried throughout the Philippines by the retreating Japanese.
Mr Atienza’s claim follows the president’s speech yesterday (Tuesday) in which he said the Marcos family claimed it had hidden the gold to “protect the economy”.
“The Marcoses, I will not name the spokesman. They said, ‘we’ll open everything and hopefully return those that had been discovered’,” the president said.
“They said that, your deficit is high, maybe the projected spending but this is not big, maybe it will help, but we are ready to open and bring back, they said, even a few gold bars,” he added.
‘Turning in her grave’
Following his announcement, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA) criticised the president for negotiating with the Marcoses.
“Not only has Duterte sponsored the official rehabilitation of the dictator, he now also facilitates the exemption of the Marcos heirs from accountability and punishment,” the group said.
“Now it can be told: President Duterte has become the spokesman and the negotiator for the Marcoses.” The group’s statement added that his mother “would be turning in her grave right now”.
Duterte’s mother, Soledad, was among the prominent anti-Marcos figures in Davao City.
In response to this criticism, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “The remarks of CARMMA that president Duterte has become the spokesman and negotiator for the Marcoses entirely miss the point.
“The president disclosed about the issue of the Marcos wealth in his speech in the spirit of transparency.”
The president, he added, “has the best interests of the Filipinos in mind. Which is, how our people would benefit from the recovery of the Marcos wealth.”
Senators have today demanded that the Marcos family returns everything that they stole from the nation.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said it wasn’t enough to only return only part of their ill-gotten wealth.
“That’s the lookout of the lawyers of the Marcos family,” he said. “But I think when it comes to settlement, the Republic of the Philippines is not too cheap.
“Everything that was stolen should be returned. It’s not like we’ll be satisfied with just crumbs.”
Minority Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV questioned the motives of the Marcos clan. He said: “It’s just right that they return their wealth to us because that’s the money of the Filipino people.
“It should be returned, but the question is, how much of the money they stole will be returned to us? It should be the entire amount.”
He also questioned the family’s apparent claim that they were holding the wealth in trust for the nation. “Yes, they kept the wealth, but they kept it for decades.
“If they really held on to it for the benefit of the country, then they should’ve returned it long ago. It’s obvious and the whole world knows that their money is ill-gotten. They really should return it.”
‘Gold was never theirs’
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the family’s wealth never belonged to them in the first place.
“Saying that they are willing to return portions of the ill-gotten wealth means that they have it. And the wealth never belonged to them to begin with. Generations of Filipinos who suffered deserve more than crumbs from the table.
“Without justice and accountability, without acknowledgement by the Marcoses of their colossal abuses against the people, any attempt to return mere portions of the ill-gotten wealth they amassed during Martial Law is an attempt to buy false credibility and further stain our history.
“The government must not exchange the people’s pursuit of justice for all the victims of Martial Law for a few gold bars. It’s like 30 pieces of silver,” she said.
The family – including Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr – has never apologised for the decades of martial law abuses.