Imeldific’s glittering hoardBy Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
Cebu Daily News
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) led by Chairman Andres Bautista is poised to sell the fabulous jewelry collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos valued at $10 million to $20 million.
Christies, the world’s leading art business and auction house will be tapped to handle the auction but before this takes place, the public will get a sneak peek at the Marcos gems in the Manila Metropolitan Museum under the guidance of the Department of Tourism, that is, if plans gel.
The exhibition and sale of the Marcos’ jewelry collection is seen as part of the PCGG’s swan song in preparation for the agency’s imminent phase-out, according to Bautista. Some evidence against the Marcoses had been lost, and the best case scenario for recovering ill-gotten wealth is to allow the Ombudsman to take over the job. Under this proposal, the PCGG will assist the Ombudsman in running after P150 billion to P200 billion of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth.
Meanwhile, Chairman Bautista believes the extravagant pieces would just be the kind of attraction that could draw foreign tourists to visit Manila. Global interest over Imeldific’s glittering hoard could push upwards the value of the items because notoriety puts a premium on the price tag. As we know, items in a public auction do not carry a card price. They are awarded to the highest bidder.
Since the public display will be undertaken in the short term, the Department of Tourism needs to make waves in posting the event worldwide by perhaps making it part of the agency’s “More Fun in the Philippines” drive. Who knows, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez must have already cooked up subtitles to the main campaign line like, “Plunder is no longer fun in the Philippines?”
Before the issue is trivialized, it should be noted that the government has been trying to sell Imeldific’s jewelry since 1994 but each time, court cases were thrown in the way to upset the plan.
I did some research based on previous media reportage in 2009 and I gathered that even a simple inventory of the jewelry collection cannot be conducted because the Central Bank and the Bureau of Customs cannot agree on certain technicalities.
When I read yesterday’s Inquirer article (PCGG to DOT: Exhibit Imelda Marcos gems in museum), I right away reviewed the item to find out if the PCGG had made an inventory because in the past doubts had been raised if the jewelry cache is still intact or still in the safekeeping of assigned agencies. It’s been more than 23 years and two discredited presidents ruled over this country from 1998 to 2010.
A piece I wrote about this subject in 2009 when the PCGG tried to sell the Marcos jewelry is worth revisiting.
The news back then moved Mrs. Marcos to tears because the Commission came out with detailed classifications of the jewels, with each cache so named depending on where they were recovered. I guess Imelda must have missed her rocks and the prospect of getting them sold was too much for her to bear.
The “Malacañang collection” consists of 300 pieces that were left behind in the presidential palace after the Marcoses fled the country in 1986.
The “Honolulu” hoard was stuffed inside 30 Louis Vuitton suitcases and easily caught the attention of US authorities when the Marcoses arrived in Hawaii in late February 1986.
Meanwhile, the “Roumeliotes Collection” was named after a Greek national, Demetrious Roumeliotes, who in March 1969 carried some 60 expensive items to Hong Kong. The alleged game plan was for Imelda and a jeweller friend to meet up with the Greek, but the smuggling attempt was foiled by Manila airport customs authorities who arrested and detained the Greek national.
Search the Internet for “Jewels of Imelda Marcos Online Exclusive” to view the Roumeliotes items: necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets in diamonds of various size and shades, rubies, emeralds, jade, gold, and pearls that Imelda bought from world famous jewelers. One picture has Imelda wearing a 93-carat (not 37 carats as reported) diamond necklace made by Italian designer Buccellati.
A jewelry lover described the Roumeloites collection as “eye candy” but a Time magazine reporter said, “One can take the spectacle of Imelda’s pile of jewelry and shoe collection with a feeling of wonder and disgust, a reaction you get as a child upon learning that Egypt’s King Farouk ate 600 oysters a week.
“The Cebuano term luod (gross) does not quite capture the substance of the story. The Tagalogs have a more apt term for the Farouk challenge—nakakasuka, meaning it makes one throw up, especially when Mrs. Marcos insists that she bought the jewels out of Ferdinand Marcos’ legitimate wealth.
“Filipinos are generally amused by the antics of Mrs. Marcos, but I think they quite cleverly conceal the power that she continues to wield in high places.
“The political clout of Mrs. Marcos can be gauged by the pronouncements of former Justice Secretary and newly designated Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzales, who, despite pending forfeiture cases involving the Marcos ill-gotten wealth before the Sandiganbayan, instructed the PCGG to return the jewels to Mrs. Marcos.
“The caveat, ‘if there’s no legal impediment’ sounds lame considering that the Honolulu collection became part of a compromise agreement wherein Imelda agreed to turn over the hoard to the Philippine government in exchange for dropping the antiracketeering charges filed against her in the United States.
“The Roumeliotes collection was considered contraband when Customs authorities seized it from the Greek national. As for the 300 pieces left in Malacañang, didn’t Imelda and her cohorts say then that the pieces were paste?”
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