Those Pesky Proverbs

by Juan L. Mercado


Do  Imelda Marcos and Ferdinand Jr. use  the same dictionary ordinary Filipinos work by?  Read the senator’s  delayed reaction to  the $354-million contempt judgment,  slammed by  US Court of Appeals (9th circuit)  against  them.

With  Mama, “it is my duty to administer the estate’s assets properly”, he said.  Marcoses  would be  decisive,  when this case is “ filed in the proper court.  (We’ve) always wanted closure to  issues of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.  Our  family also wants the country to move forward.  But (we’d) would  like to see the process done according to law.”

Ti aramid ti mangipakita ti kina siasinom, an Ilocano proverb says. “Deeds tell who you are”. 

The Marcoses tried  to secretly ship out of the US,  paintings and other artworks, from the contested holdings  for a  25 percent tax free share, the court found. That  would sandbag an injunction against  tapping estate assets while the jury deliberated.

“Contumacious conduct”, the US magistrate fumed.  It “caused direct harm”  to martial law victims.  The court  whacked  the Marcoses with  a daily fine of $100,000 dollars.  When the contempt order expired,  the tab totaled $353.6  million. 

Peanuts  for the Marcoses?  Yet, it could  wrest for this penalty a Book of Guinness Record slot.  If so, it’d  be a homecoming  of sorts for Imelda. Until the early 1990s, she and Ferdinand Sr. were a yearly feature in the Guinness section on  theft. 

Ban bannog ti agdil-dillaw, no cadcadduan ti agtactacaw,  an Ilocano maxim says. Would Ferdinand Jr.  please  help citizens who can not follow.. “It is useless to criticize if your companion is the thief.”

And  theft on a grand scale is what the unanimous  Supreme Court decision of July 2003 was all about (G.R. No. 152154).  It directed that Marcos secret Swiss deposits, amounting  US$658,175,373,  be “forfeited in favor of petitioner Republic of the Philippines”.  

The Swiss government  earlier returned the loot. Until that decision,  Philippine National Bank, held the boodle in escrow. Imelda, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, Irene Marcos Araneta  and Bongbong tried  —  but  failed — to add  that to their  fortunes.

Imelda is Waray and may not be  familiar with the Ilocano adage.  Ti cuarta isu ti naimbag nga agservi, negm dakes nga mangiturong.  “Money is a good servant but a bad master.”

Imelda  earlier this year bitterly complained  she’d been robbed. “The Presidential Commission on Good Government stole my jewels. They should return them, instead of displaying them  in a National Musuem  exhibit,” before the Aquino government auctions them off.

The lady wailed about  three batches of gems: (a) the Malacañang Collection; (b) the “Honolulu Batch and (c) the Roumeliotes Set”

People Power demonstrators stumbled across 300 gems in  Malacanang closets, hours after the Marcoses scrambled aboard Chinook escape helicopters. In Honolulu, the Marcoses kept what they declared: bearer bonds, cash etc. But US customs didn’t look the other way with 278 crates of art, P27.7 million in newly minted currency. There were over 400 jewels stashed among gold bars, wrapped in diaper bags.

Half a world away, Philippine authorities nailed Greek national Demetriou Roumeliotes when he tried to smuggle  out 60 gems,. A 37 carat diamond, crafted by Bulgari, is centerpiece. “They were inside a package addressed to Imelda Marcos when seized, “ Arab News reported.

Roumeliotes denied ownership, and  later said they were fakes. Nonsense,  the reputable  auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s snapped.  Imelda agreed.  “The jewelry was taken out of Malacañang presidential palace without knowledge, much less (with my) consent,  between Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, 1986,” she said in a court petition .

The Malacañang Collection and the Roumeliotes Set are in Central Bank vaults today. “These are all mine,” she stressed.  What  about  the “Honolulu Batch’?

Imelda  “signed an agreement, with the US government in 1991, giving up the  jewels . In exchange, two racketeering cases against her in Honolulu were dropped, “ Arab News added. 

As  public officials —-  Ferdinand Sr.  was president  and Madame  Minister of Human Settlements – were of modest means. At least,  that was what their income tax reports claimed,  the Supreme Court  noted.  

FM’s  networth was a P120,000.00 in December, 1965. Between 1965 to 1984, Marcoses reported  joint  income of  P16,408,442.  Official  salaries  accounted for 16 percent, farm  income  9 percent  others: 15 percent.  Legal  practice  crested at a  whooping 68 percent.

“There is nothing on record  (of) any known Marcos client as he had no known law office. He was barred by law from practicing his law profession during his entire presidency. “ Incredibly, he was still receiving payments almost 20 years after.  There are no withholding tax certificates. The joint income tax returns of FM and Imelda cannot, therefore, conceal the skeletons of their kleptocracy” 

The Court  followed the money trail to shell foundations.  In  June 1971, Marcos Sr. ordered to establish the Azio Foundation. He  “executed a power of attorney in favor of Roberto S. Benedicto. Azio morphed into Verso Foundation which was  liquidated. Then, came  Xandy-Wintrop, followed by  Charis-Scolari, Valamo, Spinus  Avertina, etc, etc. etc.

They hid wealth “under layers of foundations. Marcos spouses were main beneficiaries. Imee, Ferdinand, Jr. and Irene  are equal third beneficiaries.

Uray ti bulsek makitana ti kuawarta, Don’t bother Bongbong  for a translation.. “Proverbs” by Damiana Eugenio (UP Press 2002)  provides one: ““With money, even the blind can see”.


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