When Corazon Aquino succeeded Marcos as the President, the very first executive order she issued was the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the PCGG. It was to recover “all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former president Ferdinand Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates” and given the power to sequester any assets believed to be the proceeds of crime.
Over the past 30 years, the PCGG has unearthed close to $3.7 billion dollars of the Marcos fortune, with some $4 billion dollars more stuck in courts. Getting money has been akin to pulling teeth as this PCGG report shows. That the ill-gotten wealth is at least $10 billion is corroborated by the following admission from the USA, in the same Nick Davies article:
Just as Marcos’s wealth was too great to seize, so his political influence was too big to beat. Two weeks after the revolution, a source in New York had shown the PCGG a report revealing that, even before he was deposed, his allies in US intelligence were aware that he had stolen up to $10bn. But the CIA refused to disclose what they knew. The Japanese government made it clear to Aquino that they were not going to hand over information, and aid packages could be in jeopardy if the PCGG pushed too hard. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher’s government said it was “not our business”.
The problem for these governments was that they had turned a blind eye while their companies had waded into the muck alongside Marcos – taking his money without asking where it came from. In some cases, Marcos, in turn, had paid bribes to senior politicians and made illegal contributions to election campaigns, including those of US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. (When this surfaced in 1986, they said they had not known where the money came from.)
Marcos is rumored to have amassed more than 300 paintings, many of which were originals and are yet to be traced. In 1999, Imelda also declared that her family owns “virtually all of the Philippines.” When the Marcoses were in power the national treasury was like the Marcos’s piggy bank. Any money the Philippines earned—whether through taxes, tariffs, land sales—could end up in the Marcoses pockets. Moreover, the Marcoses gave many special deals to their cronies and awarded them lucrative concessions to timber, minerals and cash crops. It is hard to imagine that the Marcoses didn’t receive some kind of kickback or share of the profits in the scheme.
According to a widely circulated story a three-foot-high Golden Buddha stashed with diamonds and other gems, hundreds of gold bars and other valuables accumulated by Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita during World War II as booty was hidden shortly before the end of the war. A poor locksmith reportedly found the Buddha and gold in a tunnel near a hospital in 1971 only to have it seized by Marcos and stored away in a Swiss Vault. Later a Swiss court in Zurich ordered Imelda Marcos, as heir to her husband’s fortune, Zurich to pay the family of the locksmith $460 million.
Taking into account all the pending court cases and other treasures, it is believed that about $4 billion is still out there that PCGG is trying to recover, which means the Philippines have a realistic chance of getting about $7.7 billion worth of the rumored $10 billion. And it has taken them 30 years.