by Juan L. Mercado


“They didn’t only hoard shoes,” Daily Telegraph culture editor Martin Chilton wrote. “Former  Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda amassed an art collection, paid for with stolen funds”  Today,  146 masterpieces — including works by  Van Gogh, Renoir, Rembrandt  Cezanne , Magritte and Brueghel the Younger   —  are  missing.

The Manhattan District Attorney Tuesday indicted  Imelda Marcos’ former personal secretary and two nephews  for selling  Claude Monet’s  “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas”,  for $32 million.  The London buyer had reservations. Were the real owners  Vilma Bautista, now  74,  and nephews Chaiyot Jansen 37, and Pongsak 40, both surnamed Navalaksana?,   the indictment  recalls.  The  Monet sale went through on Sept. 14, 2010.

From  proceeds, Bautista funneled  $28 million into her  bank account. Two real estate brokers got a $4million commission and $5 million slab went to the two nephews.  “Chaiyot sent an e-mail, after  the sale,  to a co-conspirator, saying his aunt wanted him to meet with his brother “to give him a bundle of caaaaaaaaassshhhh,” the indictment adds.

Bautista, who now walks with a cane,  is also  accused  of  peddling  Monet’s “L’Église et La Seine à Vétheuil” (1881), Alfred Sisley’s “Langland Bay” (1887) and Albert Marquet’s “Le Cyprès de Djenan Sidi Said” (1946), known as “Algerian View.”

All three face conspiracy raps.  Lodged against  Bautista and Chaiyot is a  charge for failing to report income from sale of the Monet.  Released on a $175,000 bond, Bautista faces up to 25 years in prison.  Her nephews could get  4 years in the slammer. Authorities were seeking their return to New York from Bangkok.

South China Morning Post
in Hong Kong,  Honolulu Star Advertiser to Brisbane Times reported the indictments  “Much of the bounty and privilege the Marcoses acquired in  years of power disappeared with the fog of revolution”,  the Australian daily said. 

From 1966 to 1986, Bautista held  a $3,000-a-month  first secretary post  at the Philippine Mission to the UN. In fact, she served  as Imelda’s eyes and ears to  factotum for  Marcos’  functions at  16-bedroom Lindenmere  house on Long Island. She acted as  bag lady for  “shopping sprees.”

This Oct. 13, 1977  entry  appears in  “Chronology of the Marcos Plunder” compiled by Charlie Avila.  “Today, after addressing the UN General Assembly, Imelda celebrated by going shopping and spending $384,000 including $50,000 for a platinum bracelet with rubies; $50,000 for a diamond bracelet; and $58,000 for a pin set with diamonds.   The day before, Vilma Bautista, one of her private secretaries, paid $18,500 for a gold pendant with diamonds and emeralds; $9,450 for a gold ring with diamonds and emeralds; and $4,800 for a gold and diamond necklace.“

The US Federal Court (9th Circuit) whacked Imelda and Ferdinand Jr. with a daily fine of $100,000 for trying to secretly ship out of the US paintings and other artworks from contested holdings for a 25-percent, tax-free share. When the contempt order expired, the tab totaled $353.6 million. 

Where do Vilma Bautista and nephews come from? To understand, browse thru “A  Dynasty on Steroids”, written by Jackie Dent, available on the Net.  

Dry, sleepy, tobacco-growing Ilocos Norte remains Marcos territory, as it has been since 1949  — although the  Marcos regime killed more than 3200 people, tortured 35,000 and incarcerated 70,000. That  surpassed  even  the brutality of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.

The Laurel clan runs Batangas; Osmeñas (used to monopolize)  Cebu;  the López family manages Iloilo, etc.  Do the  Marcoses  merely perpetuate oligarchic politics that plagues the country?, “I always find  ‘return to politics’ a misnomer,” Ferdinand Jr.  snaps .  “We never left”. Or, as Imee remarks drolly :  “It is nepotism plus plus, a dynasty on steroids.”

Does a Marcos have to run all the time? “It’s the whole Filipino system – they really count on you, they have all these expectations,” Imee says.  “Your family is taking care of their family, which is taking care of your family and it just goes on and on and on. It’s pretty feudal in the Philippines still, even though we like to fool ourselves.”

That  includes Bongbong?  “He  seems to think that his family did nothing wrong and has nothing to apologize for. He says they have either won cases or they have been dismissed…We have a judgment against us in the billions. What more would people want? That we open our veins and die before them? Is that the solution?  History will be the best judge of the family.”

Benito Mussolini was executed outside an Italian villa; Gaddafi died in the desert, killed by rebels; Robert Mugabe and Castro will probably die in power.  “Why are Filipinos so willing to embrace the Marcos family again?”, Dent wonders.

Filipinos have  a “soft, forgiving culture, notes  former  Singapore Prime Minister  Lee Kuan Yew in his  book:  From Third World to First.   “Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics.”

“Your brother [Bongbong] says that politics is the national sport here,” Dent tells Imee. She replies:  “It’s not very sporting, though. No fair play, no rules, very movable goal posts. Not quite right as a sport.  It is better as something else. Vaudeville, maybe?”  

Spell that as caaaaaaaaassshhhh.


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