$4B from the Marcos stolen wealth already recovered

A Twitter user named @dietrich291 claimed that the stolen wealth amassed by the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, his family, and his cronies were never recovered by former presidents Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino and Benigno S. Aquino III.

The tweet, which cited no proof to back up the accusation, reads: “Ang tatanga ng mga Aquino, namatay na clang 2 hindi pa rin nila nakuha ang ang ill-gotten wealth.” (The Aquinos are stupid, they’re both dead but they haven’t collected the ill-gotten wealth.)

The claim is false. Efforts by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), established under the Cory Aquino administration through Executive Order 1, as well as landmark Supreme Court decisions, have already affirmed the return of the recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth to the Philippine treasury. Moreover, the period of the PCGG’s recovery of the Marcos stolen wealth spanned from the time of Cory Aquino’s administration in 1986 up to Rodrigo Duterte’s own—which is still ongoing.

In September 2021, Rappler’s justice reporter Lian Buan wrote a report (BREAKDOWN: P174B recovered from Marcos loot, P125B more to get) detailing the breakdown of the recovered bank deposits and other assets from the huge Marcos loot. Out of the $10 billion Marcos stolen wealth estimated by the PCGG in 1986, the government has already recovered P174.2 billion—or roughly $4 billion—in thirty-five years since it was established. In one year alone, from January to December 2020, it has recovered P333.7 million from the Marcos stolen loot.

P171.3 billion from the recovered Marcos stolen wealth were the PCGG’s total collections and remittances to the Philippine coffers, while the remaining P2.8 billion were the total escrow funds. The biggest allocation from the recovered Marcos loot went to the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), also initiated under Cory’s watch—with almost P79 billion sent to the country’s farmers. P76.4 billion of the recovered Marcos billions went to coconut farmers’ investment fund.

Meanwhile, P10.5 billion of these funds were already provided to victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos dictatorship in accordance with Republic Act 10368, the landmark law signed by Aquino III in 2013 to recognize and compensate the Marcos human rights victims. A full breakdown of the recovered Marcos stolen wealth is included in the Rappler report.

On the other hand, the Bureau of Treasury holds the biggest portion of the Marcos billions held in escrow: P1.7 billion. The country’s anti-graft court, Sandiganbayan, holds P1.1 billion of these funds, while the remaining P4 million resides with the Landbank of the Philippines. The PCGG was able to recover these Marcos assets and billions while working under a measly budget of P3.6 billion from 1986 to 2020 (or in 34 years), according to the PCGG’s accomplishment report for that year.

The road to recovery

In a separate report published in 2014, the 28th year of the PCGG, the commission broke down the totality of the recovered Marcos loot into: “aggregate cash value” of all deposits hidden by the Marcoses in offshore and local bank accounts, shares in corporations (foreign and domestic), residential and commercial properties, and artworks and other “valuable personal effects” which the commission had either confiscated or was awarded by various courts in the Philippines, in Singapore, and in the United States.

The long road to the recovery of these assets was fought chiefly through heavy legal battles which the PCGG still pursues to this day. As of 2018, there are still pending 255 criminal, civil, and administrative cases filed by the commission against the Marcoses and their cronies as part of the efforts to recover stolen wealth. 

One example of these legal battles was during the recovery of the Marcoses’ $685 million deposited in various Switzerland banks. The Philippine Supreme Court ruled in favor of the PCGG and ordered the forfeiture of these bank deposits in its historic Republic v Sandiganbayan ruling in 2003, which unequivocally declared these assets as ill-gotten wealth. The recovered Swiss bank deposits of the Marcoses were distributed to human rights victims during their dictatorship. 

Another example was the Philippine Supreme Court’s decision, Marcos Jr v Republic, which also forfeited to the government $40 million from the Marcoses’ infamous Arelma accounts in 2012–-under the Aquino III presidency. Ferdinand Marcos first deposited $2 million in a Swiss account with the Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. through a dummy Panamanian corporation, Arelma Inc. in September 1972—around the same time that the late dictator imposed martial law. The account’s deposits had ballooned to around $35 million when the PCGG discovered it in 2000.

In 2012 also, still under the Aquino III presidency, the Philippine Supreme Court declared that P70.2 billion in the Marcoses’ San Miguel Corporation shares belong to the national treasury. These shares, which the PCGG had sequestered in 1986 (under Cory Aquino’s watch), were purchased by the Marcoses and their dummies through the coconut levy fund — forced taxes which the Marcos dictatorship imposed on coconut farmers from 1973 to the early 1980s. These assets were held by the Coconut Industry Investment Funds (CIIF), controlled by the late Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco, who was also a former San Miguel chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). 

In 2017, the Philippine Supreme Court has yet again affirmed the forfeiture of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos’ Malacañang collection of jewelry, whose worth was appraised at $153,089. Using the legal argument that won for the PCGG landmark decisions such as Republic v Sandiganbayan and Marcos Jr v Republic, the Supreme Court declared that Mrs. Marcos’ jewelry set was “unlawfully acquired,” given that the Marcos spouses’ legal wealth only amounted to $304,372. 

As of this writing, P125 billion from the Marcos stolen wealth is still being recovered by the PCGG and remains under litigation—including Marcos real estate properties and other personal assets. The claim that the Aquinos had never recovered the Marcos stolen wealth is false. However, the false tweet by @dietrich291—which has 884 followers—gathered 941 likes and 176 retweets as of March 7.

Additional sources:

[1] “MONEY TRAIL: THE MARCOS BILLIONS,” Patricia Lourdes Viray. https://newslab.philstar.com/31-years-of-amnesia/never-convicted

[2] “Imelda Marcos loses legal fight to reclaim confiscated jewellery,” Oliver Holmes. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/14/imelda-marcos-philippines-loses-legal-fight-to-reclaim-confiscated-jewellery 

[3] “HINDI TOTOO: Walang nabawi ang Pilipinas mula sa nakaw na yaman ng mga Marcos,” Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/fact-check/philippines-recovered-nothing-marcos-ill-gotten-wealth/ 

Vox Populi PH is part of the #FactsFirstPH initiative which aims to counter disinformation by amplifying facts and debunking lies.

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