AFP: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday the heirs of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had offered to return to the government some of the family’s disputed wealth, including “a few gold bars”.
Marcos and his wife Imelda were accused of plundering about $ 10 billion from state coffers in 20 years in power. A bloodless “People Power” uprising in 1986 chased the family into US exile.
The Government announced last month that Duterte, a Marcos ally, may abolish a government agency that has recovered some 170 billion pesos ($ 3.4 billion) from Marcos and his family.
But Duterte said in a speech to government officials: “They (the Marcos family) told me they’ll open everything, and probably return what is uncovered.”
He did not name the Marcos family member who had approached him, the total being offered or the terms attached to it.
The family member had told Duterte “we are ready to open and bring (it) back ... including a few gold bars”, according to the Philippine president, but the amount involved was “not Fort Knox”.
Fort Knox is a vault that stores US gold reserves.
Duterte said he would accept the Marcos offer and was looking to appoint a retired justice of the Philippine Supreme Court to negotiate with the family on the government’s behalf.
Duterte’s announcement was the latest development in the remarkable political rehabilitation of the Marcos clan.
Despite the dictator’s death in Hawaii exile in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback in the Philippines with his widow, Imelda, and their children getting elected to office.
No member of the Marcos family went to prison despite the government recovery of some of its fortune through litigation and out-of-court settlements.
Duterte has openly supported the Marcos family, cheering on the Marcos son, Ferdinand Jnr, in his failed bid for the vice-presidency last year.
The Marcos family is known to be grooming him for the presidency as well, and the son is challenging the result of the vice-presidential vote in court in a fight that could put him in the country’s second-highest office.
Duterte stunned the nation in November last year by allowing the body of the late dictator to be buried in the national ‘Heroes’ Cemetery’ despite a widespread outcry that his abuses and corruption exempted him from such an honour.
Imelda, the widow of Marcos, denies the family’s wealth is ill-gotten and at times has said her late husband recovered the treasure of Japan’s World War II General Tomoyuki Yamashita that was looted from across Southeast Asia.
“I will accept the explanation whether or not it is true, it does not matter,” Duterte said Tuesday.
What was important, he said, is it would be “something that really works for the Filipinos”.