Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looting the Marcos loot

The Latest from Ellen Tordesillas

Posted: 06 Jan 2013 04:53 AM PST
Imelda Marcos loves jewelry. Photo from
Just because the Presidential Commission on Good Government would be abolished, it doesn’t mean that the hunt for the people’s money looted by the Marcoses and hidden in bank accounts abroad or in properties under the name of some friends, should also end.
As PCGG Chair Andres Bautista said, the job could be continued by the Department of Justice. The reasons he gave, one of which as that Marcos- loot- hunting by the 200-man agency is no longer cost effective, makes sense.
So far, in its 27-year existence the PCGG has recovered $4 billion (P164 billion), only a tiny fraction of what was estimated to be a $10 billion loot in 1986. Just imagine how much the unrecovered would be worth by now including the interests.
The executive order creating the PCGG was the first issued by President Cory Aquino on Feb. 28, 1986, three days after the Marcos fled early evening of Feb. 25, 1986 as millions of Filipinos rose in a bloodless revolution called People Power.

The PCGG was supposed to prevent the Marcos from spiriting money and other forms of wealth they had stashed during the more than 20 years that they were in power. The creation of the PCGG was the basis by the Swiss Federal Court to freeze some of the accounts identified to belong to the Marcoses.
The PCGG may have lost its luster by now, the fault of abuses and incompetence not only by its personnel but also by a number of the people who when placed in power post-Marcos turned out to be as greedy and corrupt.
One of the stories I remember was, as the Marcoses were rushing out of the Malacañang to the waiting helicopter parked at the Pangarap House grounds that would bring them Clark Air Base where a C-130 was waiting that would bring them to Guam and to Hawaii, there were a lot of documents and pearls that fell out of the several pieces of luggage they were carting away. Two of those documents later turned out to be the “smoking gun” evidence that led to the recovery of the four buildings in New York worth $350 million.
The Bernstein Declaration of Trust: the smoking gun
The documents were the declarations of trust handwritten by Joseph E. Bernstein on a Manila Peninsula letterhead. The first declaration of trust dated April 4, 1982 stated that Bernstein, a New York real estate broker, would act as trustee for former president Marcos with respect to Lastura Corp. N.V., a corporation registered in Netherlands Antilles.
The second declaration of trust, dated April 5, 1982 stated that Bernstein was the trustee of Beneficio Investment Inc., a corporation registered in Panama which in turn owned Lastura Corp.
With the smoking gun evidence, the Bernstein brothers, Joseph and Ralph, admitted having fronted for the Marcoses in the purchase of the New York buildings.
But there were also accounts of looting of the loot in Malacañang of some members of the so-called yellow group.
One of the intriguing testimonies of Dr. Teresita Reyes, dermatologist of Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, brother of Cory Aquino, during the 1991 trial in New York of the racketeering case against former First Lady Imelda Marcos, was about several Louis Vuitton valises containing jewelry that they took out from the bedroom of Imelda.
The valises were loaded into vans that drove to Reyes’ house in Dasmariñas Village in Makati.
Some members of the Reformed the Armed Forces Movement who saw the loading of the valises in the van reported to then Defense Minister Juan Ponce-Enrile, who led with Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos,the coup de’etat against Marcos.
Enrile reportedly went to the Dasmariñas destination of the valises and saw the society matrons excitedly, like kids, trying Imelda’s jewelry.
Those jewelry (no one’s sure if everything was accounted for) are now with the Central Bank and referred to as the Malacañang collection. The Philippine government has been negotiation with the U.S. auction house, Christie’s.
Last November, there was a story in the New York Times about Imelda’s former aide, Vilma Bautista, accused of art theft. She was caught trying to sell off painting by the masters that used to house occupied by Imelda Marcos. One of the painting she was able to sell was “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas” (1899) by Claude Monet to a London gallery for $32 million in September 2010.
A lot of those unrecovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth are out there, if not in banks, in the hands of some people. They cannot stay hidden forever.
We hope they would surface and returned to the Filipino people in our lifetime.

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