Philippines to auction huge cache of ill-gotten jewellery seized from Imelda Marcos, wife of former dictator Ferdinand
- The items, estimated to be worth about US$19 million in 2015, include Indian diamonds, Burmese rubies and Colombian emeralds
- They were seized in Hawaii, where the Marcos family had been living in exile following the so-called People Power Revolution of 1986
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialde told reporters that the state’s anti-corruption agency, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), had been informed about the upcoming sale.
“An order has already been issued by the president yesterday for disposition of the Marcos jewellery collection. The office of the president officially informed PCGG that it interposes no objections to the proposed activities relative to the disposal of the Marcos jewellery collections, subject to compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations,” Medialdea said.
The news appears to lay to rest critics’ earlier concerns that Duterte might abolish the PCGG, given his open support of the Marcos family. In November 2016, he allowed a heroes burial for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
Besides the rare diamond, estimated to be worth about US$5 million, there is a tiara that once belonged to a Russian empress up for auction and a number of the Marcos family’s personal possessions including bonds, certificates, gold bars and weapons.
Three years ago, Philippine authorities staged an online exhibition of some of the jewellery to try to educate a new generation about the corruption of that era.
Before giving his approval, Duterte had stressed that all proceeds from the items’ sale should go towards the benefit of the public, according to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. Any appeal to prevent the auction of the jewellery will be blocked, he said.
“We will oppose it because that’s the right thing to do. We feel that as the president says, the proceeds have to go to the Filipino people who are in urgent need of government aid,” Panelo said, adding that members of the Marcos family would be allowed to participate in the auction.
However, Antonio Ligon, a professor of law and business at De La Salle University in Manila, said he was sure that “guidelines” would be drawn up to prevent the family from winning back the items as they had been declared as “illegally gotten wealth”.
In the two decades that Marcos ran the Philippines, an estimated US$10 billion went missing.
The Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines two years after Ferdinand’s death and began their political comeback in 1992, when his widow Imelda ran for president, placing fifth. The dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, known as Bongbong, won a congressional seat representing their hometown of Ilocos Norte and in 1995, Imelda was elected as a congresswoman.
Her daughter, Imee, an ally of Duterte, became a senator in last month’s elections.