Alan to Bongbong: Return stolen riches
CEBU CITY—Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. should not apologize for martial law, but he should return the wealth that his family allegedly stole from the nation during their 20 years in power and apologize for his role in concealing it, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday.
Cayetano, who is contesting the vice presidential race with Marcos and four other candidates in the May 9 national elections, acknowledged that Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, should not apologize for his father’s iron-fist rule, during which thousands of Filipinos were killed, disappeared or died in prison.
“I stated that the sin of the father is not the sin of the son. If the father did something wrong, the son should not be blamed for it,” Cayetano told local journalists during a campaign visit to Cebu City.
“But if the son is involved in spiriting away billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth that the government is trying to recover, that’s another story,” Cayetano said.
“Operation Big Bird showed that he made arrangements to make sure that the government could not lay its hands on those billions,” he added.
“Operation Big Bird” was a failed attempt in 1986 to recover $213 million (P10.16 billion) in ill-gotten wealth allegedly stashed by the Marcos family in Swiss banks.
It was initiated by retired military general Jose Almonte and banker Michael de Guzman but was called off because it did not have the approval of the administration of then President Corazon Aquino.
The late Sen. Joker Arroyo had said the operation was not code-named “Big Bird” when it was presented to President Aquino. He said the code name was coined by the media.
“[The Marcoses] inherited the money so for me what is more important than saying sorry is their returning the wealth that they allegedly stole from the nation,” Cayetano said.
And Senator Marcos, he said, should apologize for his role in concealing his family’s billions of dollars in alleged ill-gotten wealth.
If the Marcoses would insist that they legitimately owned those billions, they should explain where all that wealth came from, he said.
The Inquirer’s efforts to reach Marcos or his spokesperson for comment on Saturday were unsuccessful.
The Marcoses have repeatedly denied amassing ill-gotten wealth, insisting that the family wealth has been legitimately acquired.
They fell from power in 1986, ran out of the country by the Edsa People Power Revolution. They lived for years in Hawaii, where the ousted dictator Marcos died in 1989.
$10-B ill-gotten wealth
Unofficial estimates put the alleged Marcos ill-gotten wealth at $10 billion.
According to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created in 1986 to recover the alleged loot, $4 billion had been recovered and given to the national treasury.
Recovered funds have been used mostly for land reform. As ordered by a Hawaii court, $210 million (P10 billion) was used to compensate about 10,000 victims of human rights abuses during martial law.
The government hopes to raise $17.7 million from an auction of some confiscated Marcos jewelry, property and stocks, sources said this month.
PCGG head Richard Amurao said the government was still seeking to recover $1 billion through 100 court cases in the Philippines and other countries.
“We don’t really know if the $10-billion estimate is accurate but what we can tell you [about the $1 billion now sought] is based from estimates of the court cases and from what we already recovered,” Amurao said.
More than half of the court cases are civil lawsuits to recover shares of stock, real estate, cash and jewelry, he said.
A quarter of the cases involve “behest loans” that state-owned banks gave individuals with political connections to the late strongman, he said.
Former PCGG Chair Andres Bautista, now head of the Commission on Elections, said most of the cases under litigation were complicated and difficult because government prosecutors could no longer locate witnesses and find documentary evidence.
“Some of the key players are also back in power,” Bautista said.
Members of the Marcos family remain active in politics. The matriarch, former first lady Imelda Marcos, is a congresswoman from Ilocos Norte province, the family’s political base where her eldest daughter, Imee Marcos, is the governor.
Now Senator Marcos is trying to win the vice presidency, which, if he wins, will put him next door to the presidency—and the ultimate political comeback for his family.
Marcos, tied with Sen. Francis Escudero for the first place in voter preference polls for the vice presidential race, has never apologized for his father’s abusive rule.
“What am I to say sorry [for]?” he said during a television interview last August.
He said that during his father’s administration thousands of kilometers of roads were built, the Philippines had one of the highest literacy rates in Asia, and the country was an exporter of rice, not an importer, as it is now.
Marcos, 58, is pressing a revisionist view of the Philippines’ harrowing experience during martial law, aimed at rehabilitating his family and putting it back in power.
He has built a coalition from his father’s remaining supporters and young people who were not yet born when martial law was declared in 1972.
President Aquino, son of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., the leader of the opposition to Marcos who was assassinated in 1983, is trying to prevent the election of the late dictator’s son to an office that would put him within reach of Malacañang.
On Thursday, at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos from power, Mr. Aquino pushed hard against Senator Marcos’ revisionist campaign, belying the candidate’s claim that the Philippines saw its best years during his father’s administration.
Without naming Marcos,
Mr. Aquino blasted the senator for refusing to apologize for the sufferings Filipinos went through during his father’s rule instead of asking the nation to be given a chance to right the wrong his father had done.
Both Cayetano and Marcos belong to the Nacionalista Party (NP). Cayetano said he had no plans of dropping his campaign even if he ranked fourth in the polls, behind Escudero, Marcos and Rep. Leni Robredo.
“We run because we believe we are the better choice,” he said.
Cayetano was in Cebu for a dialogue with patients at government-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.
His visit was part of the dialogue with the people strategy of his campaign with his presidential running mate, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. With reports from the wires and Inquirer Research