PCGG to DOT: Exhibit Imelda Marcos gems in museum
The glitter of gold and the sparkle of diamonds from Imelda Marcos’ jewelry collection may yet attract more tourists than her shoes, said the agency tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of her family.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is urging the Department of Tourism to exhibit the former first lady’s jewelry collection at the Metropolitan Museum in Manila before these are sold.
“First, we should put these on exhibit because we think these can attract tourists and second, we should auction these jewelry off. Sotheby’s already called us and expressed interest in auctioning these off,” PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista said in a phone interview.
Bautista said that previous estimates pegged the Imelda jewelry collection at between $10 million and $20 million.
“We think, notoriety has a premium. It should be more than that,” he said.
Divided in 3 caches
Imelda’s jewels that the government have seized are divided into three caches.
- The Malacañang collection which has roughly 300 pieces that were left behind in Imelda’s closets when the Marcoses hurriedly left in 1986.
- The Honolulu collection containing at least 400 pieces that were sized by the United States Bureau of Customs from the Marcoses when they fled to Hawaii.
- The collection named after Imelda’s Greek accomplice, Demetriou Roumeliotes, who was caught by Philippine authorities trying to spirit 60 pieces of jewelry out of the country a few weeks after the Marcoses left the country.
“All of these are in the vault of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and they are under the jurisdiction of the PCGG and the Department of Finance. The Roumeliotes collection is the most expensive because it has very big pieces,” Bautista said. Its most prominent piece is a 37-carat diamond
Bautista said the PCGG had submitted its recommendation to Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez as early as March to put the Imelda jewels on public display. Jimenez did not reply to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s query.
Bautista is looking at the exhibition and sale of the jewelry collection as part of the PCGG’s swan song in preparation for the agency’s imminent phase-out.
“We estimate that we are still running after between P150 billion and P200 billion. Our suggestion to the President is to shut us down because we have been losing some of the evidence (versus the Marcoses) and we have the Ombudsman to do our job. The PCGG can help the Ombudsman because EO (Executive Order) 1 mandates us to look into cases of possible graft and corruption,” he said.
In 2006, the Sotheby’s and Christie’s international auction houses estimated the entire lot (the three collections) to be worth P15 billion.
The government tried several times to sell the jewelry to raise money, but court cases and disputes over the venue prevented the auction.
In 1994, the PCGG tried to sell the jewelry but was unable to work out the terms with international auctioneers, Christie’s of New York and Sotheby’s of London. Another attempt was made in 1996, but it did not materialize.
In 2005, another attempt was made, but Imelda asked a Manila court to issue an injunction against the auction, claiming the jewelry belonged to her, with some pieces being family heirlooms.
In May 2009, the PCGG announced once again its plan to auction off a huge cache of Imelda’s jewelry, with then PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede noting that there was no legal impediment because Imelda had been unsuccessful in getting the courts to issue a restraining order.
Bautista, who took over the PCGG in October in 2010, blamed some of his predecessors for the PCGG’s failures in going after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies over the past 26 years.
“It is embarrassing what they (our predecessors) did before. That is why we strived hard to erase this and regain our reputation. We can only change what we have at present,” Bautista said.
He said the Office of the Ombudsman could go after fixers in the PCGG. “We have filed cases against them at the Ombudsman and some of them are pending in the Sandiganbayan,” he said.
Bautista also blamed the gridlock in the court cases against the Marcoses for the PCGG’s disappointing performance.
“Most of the cases are being dragged to death in court. The failure of the PCGG in the past is mirrored by the failure of the courts. Our cases are over 20 years old—over 260 of them. The courts should not have been allowed to indefinitely delay these cases. Hopefully, with the new Ombudsman, the new Chief Justice and the secretary of justice, we will have a better output with our cases,” he said.
The PCGG has remitted P293 million in 2011 and P440 million so far this year. “This is our recovery rate. We give back more than we spend,” Bautista said.
Under the law, proceeds from the recovery of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten assets go to the land reform program.
Compensation for victims
Bautista said the PCGG was not against paying compensation to the Marcos human rights victims who won $2 billion in damages in a Honolulu court in 1995.
“What we don’t want is to compensate them through their lawyers because the lawyers are getting a big chunk. Our suggestion is give the money to the Treasury, create a law compensating the victims, and the Treasury will give the compensation directly to the victims. The right process should be followed,” Bautista said.
Originally posted: 9:00 pm | Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
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