29 June 2009

Imelda Marcos is the Richest Poor

Photo courtesy of Paolo Picones/Polaris
If Imelda Marcos claims she's going broke and becoming poor, then imagine how one can describe the conditions of those living in dumpsites and in squatter’s area. She made this pronouncement in an apparent bid to get some of her loot back.

The wife of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is demanding that the Philippine government return PhP 15 billion worth of jewelry – a collection which includes a Persian-style necklace with more than 100 carats of canary and pink diamonds; tiaras previously owned by European royalty; a 93-carat diamond necklace crafted by renowned Italian designer Gionmoria Buccellati.

The jewels consisting of three collections were seized by or turned over to the Philippine government after the downfall of the Marcos regime in 1986.

Now, from where an ordinary person is sitting, Mrs. Marcos' demand seems to mean the people owe her something and should accommodate her request. The imperious and out-of-touch arrogant former First Lady conveniently did not include any explanation why she was able to afford loot on the ostensible salary of the former President. She is claiming outright that the jewelries are hers and was not acquired using any illegal means.

Ironically, the woman included in Newsweek’s list of greediest people of all time claimed she is on the verge of becoming poor. "It is painful that every time I have to leave for medical treatment, I have to pay PhP 750,000 travel bond. I have no more money left," a weeping Mrs. Marcos said in recent media interviews.

Ah yes, hypocrisy - nothing like it. To get her treatment, Mrs. Marcos finds it hard to resist the comforts of a developed country instead of availing the same method of medication that ordinary people received from local health facilities. Mrs. Marcos apparently thinks she is too precious to share the deprivations of the people she always say she was supposed to be helping, even if she was not in power anymore. Why can’t she just stay in a squatter' house and show everyone how to do the job she said she would do.

Also, in her letter to Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on 25 May 2009, Mrs. Marcos insisted that she remains the items’ legitimate owner since the agency has yet to initiate any civil or criminal proceedings in any court for their forfeiture. She noted that the PCGG never issued any sequestration or freeze order over the jewels, as mandated by Article 18 of the 1987 Constitution.

The Justice Department, however, rejected Mrs. Marcos’ request, saying that the MalacaƱang collection is part of forfeiture proceedings pending before the Sandiganbayan, the country’s anti-graft court.

Government figures revealed that when she was in power, Mrs. Marcos took US$ 5 million shopping sprees to New York and Rome, aside from the expensive, meaningless and wasteful collection of gems and 3,000 pairs of shoes she purchased allegedly using public funds. And for what? As an arrogant means of assuring her fetish for something expensive (or at least her husband's)?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should instruct its lawyers to claim the money back from this charlatan, who everyone thinks can afford to refund the cost of all her self-indulgent vanity purchases and tours even after being toppled from power - after all as she seems to have found the knack of securing a succession of highly paid opportunities to display her incompetence and failure. Besides, aside from the contested jewels, the Marcos wealth purportedly includes millions of dollars stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, several private estates, and the secret ownership of shares in private corporations of Marcos cronies. Despite the scope of their crime, no end to the drama seems to be in sight.

More than two decades have passed since the Marcos regime was overthrown by the People Power uprising, but the legal battles are still on-going. Mrs. Marcos alone is facing 10 graft charges on allegations that she held financial interests in secret foundations and private enterprises while she was a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa from 1978 to 1984.

Government insiders are reportedly 'irritated and perplexed' over the slow pace of efforts to reclaim the Marcos millions. And if government insiders, who have access to fat salaries and generous expenses, are concerned, imagine how much the rest of the impoverished Filipinos living in the real world are pissed off. The government should take urgent action, up to and including fast-tracking these trials and getting rid of incompetent, greedy and bonus-obsessed lawyers who are dragging simply their feet.