PCGG: Imee Marcos probe out in 2 weeksBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Cristina Arzadon
Inquirer Northern Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) will come up in two weeks’ time with its preliminary findings on the offshore trust of Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos and her three sons in the British Virgin Islands.
Depending on the findings, the PCGG will assess whether to pursue the discovery in line with its mandate to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family and cronies.
PCGG Commissioners Ma. Ngina Teresa Chan-Gonzaga and Vicente Gengos Jr. will lead the team that will look into the lead uncovered by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as part of a 15-month global media investigation of thousands of secret offshore companies or trusts and their beneficiaries.
The global special report on offshore accounts led by ICIJ analyzed records in collaboration with reporters from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, the United States and 31 other media partners around the world.
“Eighty-six journalists from 46 countries used high-tech data crunching and shoe-leather reporting to sift through e-mails, account ledgers and other files covering nearly 30 years,” ICIJ said on its website.
Ejercito, Manny Villar
Other Filipinos with offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands were San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito and Sen. Manny Villar, according to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). PCIJ is part of the ICIJ network.
The ICIJ report also mentions other high-profile names from the United States, Russia, France, Azerbaijan, Canada, Pakistan, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries.
Not in Imee’s SALN
Weeks before the ICIJ news report came out, the PCGG was given copies of documents showing Imee and her sons to be beneficiaries of Sintra Trust that was formed in June 2002 in the BVI.
The PCIJ linked Imee to Sintra Trust and two other offshore companies, all of which were not listed in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) she filed as a member of the House of Representatives and as governor of Ilocos Norte.
“They (PCGG investigators) were given two weeks to get additional information and to submit preliminary findings,” PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista said in an interview on Monday.
“We’re looking at involving other government agencies,” added the former law dean of the Far Eastern University, mentioning the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Nearly three decades since the agency was created to recover the wealth Marcos illegally amassed during his 20-year regime, the PCGG continues to pursue leads such as that provided in the PCIJ report, of suspected hidden Marcos assets abroad.
In Ilocos Norte, Imee declined to comment on a story linking her to an alleged secret offshore trust.
She said she would let her lawyer answer the claims.
“Iwanan muna natin kasi may karugtong daw at saka yung abogado na ang sasagot (Let’s just leave that issue because they say there’s more coming. Our lawyer will answer that),” Imee said in a press briefing at the provincial capitol on April 4.
Her brother, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., supported the governor’s position, saying the story was a “legal issue.”
“We do not want to respond because it is essentially a legal issue. [It is the first of two parts], we want to see everything before we respond,” the senator said, referring to the report of the PCIJ.
Meanwhile, former President Joseph Estrada shrugged off the report linking his son, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate Ejercito, to an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands. “It’s part of an operation to discredit UNA candidates,” Estrada said.
PCIJ said that “though they may not be breaking any laws per se, politicians and public officials with ties to secret offshore corporations are regarded rather dimly by advocates of good governance” because these can be used to hide wealth and financial transactions.
“These are just suspicions. There’s nothing illegal. Why did the news come out only now? Because the elections are coming and JV is among the top-ranking candidates. It’s a smear campaign against the UNA,” Estrada said. With reports from Erika Sauler and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research