The Philippines said on Thursday it planned to soon put on public display jewels seized 26 years ago from former first lady Imelda Marcos, hoping they will be a tourist draw.
The collection, worth at least US$8 million, have sat in a bank vault for decades after being seized as part of assets allegedly plundered by the Marcos family before it fled to US exile in 1986, after 20 years in power.
The government plans to ultimately auction them off after putting them on display, said Maita Gonzaga, a senior official at the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
“They can attract tourists, (and) also (show) that there are certain lessons of the past that should not be forgotten. These are actual tangible evidence of plunder,” Gonzaga told reporters.
Imelda Marcos, now 83, is the widow of Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, including nine years under martial law.
She enjoyed great influence as cabinet member and roving ambassador, but became the symbol of excess while the rest of the country plunged into poverty.
She enjoyed a jet-setting lifestyle and amassed a huge collection of jewellery, fine art, and real estate – allegedly bought with money stolen from state coffers.
But a popular revolt ended Marcos’ rule and sent him and his family into exile in Hawaii where the patriarch died three years later.
Part of the jewellery collection was recovered by the US government when the family arrived in Honolulu while other jewels were separately seized from a Greek friend of Marcos while he was trying to smuggle them out.
Marcos was replaced by democracy icon Corazon Aquino who put up the wealth commission to recover all of Marcos’s ill-gotten assets.
The Marcos family was later allowed to return home and regained some of their influence with the widow and her son, also named Ferdinand, being elected to parliament.
Gonzaga said the agency hoped to put the jewels on display at a government museum this year or in early next year.
A spokesman for Imelda Marcos declined to comment on the plan to display the jewels. Senator Ferdinand Marcos could not be contacted for comment.
The commission has said that at least US$2.22 million has been recovered from the Marcoses and their allies so far.
However no member of the Marcos family had gone to jail for the alleged plunder.