At the risk of sounding banal, I have to repeat the old saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Too good to be true, that is.
This week, President Rodrigo Duterte said something that almost turned me into a Dutertard. The chief executive claimed that he had spoken to an unidentified member of the Marcos camp, and the family of the late dictator had promised to return their ill-gotten wealth.
As my favorite actor Keanu Reeves likes to say in nearly all of his movies, I also told myself: Whoa.
Could this be real? Had Mr. Duterte enlightened the Marcoses to realize the error of their ways? Had he convinced them to surrender what they took from the nation’s coffers so that they may finally clean their soiled reputations in the history books?
No. Not quite.
To backtrack, I was browsing through Facebook as I am wont to do every morning. One of my friends posted a one-liner about Duterte saying the Marcoses would return their ill-gotten wealth. To my friend, I stated: Fake news?
I was so convinced that it was so implausible that I didn’t think more of it. That greedy family would in my mind never ever return the wealth that turned their patriarch into one of the biggest thieves of all time. Not my judgment, but this is according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Or as Filipinos would say, this would only happen “pagputi ng uwak,” or when the crows or blackbirds turn white.
Later in the day, I browsed through my favorite news sites, the ones I still find as being generally honest and fair. Lo and behold, it was true. Sort of. The president did, in fact, say that the Marcoses were now willing to return their wealth, including “a few gold bars.”
Listening to the president speak, it became clear that while he may indeed have spoken to one of the Marcoses, the promise to return their ill-gotten wealth was so full of vague conditions as to be little more than double talk, or gobbledygook as some wordsmiths would call it.
What the Marcos spokesperson said was that whatever the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) could find, they would return.
The late dictator had stolen billions of pesos, or even dollars, that the few hundred millions that the PCGG had recovered over the last three decades was a proverbial drop in the bucket.
While no one truly knows the full extent of the greed and thievery of Ferdinand Marcos, simply seeing the current lifestyles of his immediate family is proof that vast amounts remain in their pockets, beyond the reach of the government in general, and the PCGG, in particular.
It is known that at the height of martial law, the bulk of the country’s gold reserves was flown out of the country. Where that gold went is a secret only the Marcos family knows. It may be stashed away in Switzerland, or it may be in several banks in countries that are completely inaccessible.
Indeed, Marcos and his family have managed to commit the perfect crime. They were able to rob the country blind and get away with it, and still have his mortal remains buried in a heroes cemetery. Moreover, his wife, son and one of two daughters have been elected to government positions again and again.
Worst of all, Marcos institutionalized corruption in high places such that today, anyone who enters government service has the choice of making illicit money and have a good chance of keeping all of it when he exits the government. More often than not, the elected or appointed government officials will succumb to the temptation of earning dirty money.
No wonder the Philippines has become a narco-state, as President Duterte says it is.
Perhaps the Marcoses really will return some of their ill-gotten wealth, which they are now claiming they only kept “for safekeeping” in the event the dictator was kicked out of the country and the Philippine economy were to take a tailspin.
This new line may or may not work with the electorate. Their old line that the dictator’s vast unexplained wealth was because he had found the fabled Yamashita’s treasure had few takers. Perhaps the more gullible among our countrymen will believe their yarn that they were just acting as mere guardians of the country’s wealth.
Such bull. Don’t believe the Marcoses when they say they will return anything to the government and the people. Just as crows and blackbirds will forever remain black, the family of the ousted dictator will never return the bulk of their ill-gotten, unexplained wealth. To do so would be to undo the perfect crime their old man got away with.
- Published in Beting Laygo Dolor