PCGG Chair Andres Bautista
“It’s a lonely job. It doesn’t win you any friends.”
With those remarks comes the skepticism, if not apprehension, of Andres Bautista, head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), that going after the Marcos ill-gotten wealth at, this stage, is simply an exercise in futility and becoming more as mythical as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Needless to say that Bautista has already recommended to President Benigno Aquino that the commission tasked to recover the alleged $10 billion stolen wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which has been going on for nearly three decades now, should cease its operation and its existence abolished.
“It has become a law of diminishing returns at this point,” Bautista told the Agence France-Press in an interview at the commission’s offices.
“It’s been 26 years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, ‘We’ve done our best’, and that’s that. It is really difficult.”
I could not agree more with Bautista’s candid thoughts.
It is not about giving up the fight, which, clearly, could have been won earlier had the late President Cory Aquino – she who created the commission – and the heads of government that followed her, went hammer and tongs in recovering the ill-gotten wealth, while it was still fresh in the minds of the supportive world.
Rather, it is staring at the realization now that those pursued for their abusive rule and for bleeding this country dry are back in power – wealthier, influential and arrogant as ever – and are now seen as thumbing their noses at the government’s quest for justice against them.
And they may just have all the reasons to do it for, as reported, despite numerous criminal and civil cases being filed against them, none of the Marcos heirs or their cronies, who have been accused of plundering government coffers, have so far been successfully prosecuted.
Now that three Marcoses – Imelda, Imee and Ferdinand Jr. – are in politics and, thanks to their clout, it hasn’t only become harder for the government to recover more of their hidden wealth, but it has become practically impossible to find it.
So far the PCGG has recovered 164 billion pesos (about $4 billion), some invested in prime New York real estate, jewelry, and about $600 million stashed in secret numbered Swiss bank accounts.
“There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the fabled wealth, and my sense is there is still much more out there,” Bautista said.
But if there is no more money to be recovered, then the best option the government should take is make money out of the jewelries presently locked in a vault at the central bank, which international auction house Christie’s estimated to fetch up to $8.5 million.
Keeping the jewelries for tourist attraction, as planned by the Department of Tourism, is a cockeyed idea as it will only leave it vulnerable for the unscrupulous to plan evil with it. Because Imelda is fighting tooth and nail against having the jewelries auctioned, it could only mean that she thinks the 150 carat giant Burmese ruby, the diamond tiara and the other gems still belong to her.
To me, having the Marcoses back in power and not being able to succeed in recovering all of their embezzled wealth is a national fiasco and we only have to blame our short memories and our penchant of idolizing the notorious.