The Duterte administration may consider a possible compromise agreement with the Marcos family in exchange for the return of their so-called ill-gotten wealth, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday.
“The President is authorized and has the power to make a compromise or any agreement with the Marcoses. If there will be a new agreement, there should be enabling law or initiative to be issued by the President himself,” Aguirre said in an interview.
However, Aguirre, who exercises administrative supervision over the Presidential Commission on Good Government , said a compromise agreement would need further study.
Aguirre said a deal with the Marcoses would have repercussions on the cases filed against them.
The Justice secretary said the proposal for the Marcoses to return the ill-gotten wealth was still in the preliminary stages and the details have yet to be ironed out.
He also said the plan of the President to form a new agency to replace the PCGG should be taken into consideration.
“Although we support the President in the formation of that body, he can consider the option of giving new powers to the PCGG by appointing additional two commissioners to strengthen its jurisdiction,” he added.
Aguirre said the decision to abolish the PCGG and create a new body would be for President Duterte to make.
Should the President decide to abolish the PCGG, it would take another two years to completely wind up its operations as the commission is still holding more than P200 billion in sequestered money and assets, he said.
Duterte on Tuesday revealed that a spokesman for the Marcoses told him that the family was willing to “open everything” and to return wealth accumulated during the 20-year rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The President also admitted that he would have wanted to abolish the PCGG but decided not to do so as it would create speculations.
The Palace on Wednesday rejected criticism that the President was acting like the spokesman for the Marcoses.
“[President Duterte] disclosed about the issue of the Marcos wealth in his speech in the spirit of transparency,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“The Chief Executive has the best interests of the Filipinos in mind, which is, how our people would benefit from the recovery of the Marcos wealth,” he added.
In a speech before newly appointed government officials, Duterte said the Marcoses told him that the late dictator stashed away billions in government funds “to protect the economy” and that he had thought of regaining Malacañang.
Marcos, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, had amassed a fortune of $5 billion to $10 billion while in office, or up to 650 times more than his annual salary, based on an estimate by the Supreme Court and source documents provided by the PCGG.
Over the last 30 years, the government has recovered at least P170 billion (nearly $3.6 billion) in cash but the total recovery efforts could reach over P200 billion ($4.2 billion), as the PCGG winds up its work to sell the remaining illegally acquired assets in its possession.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan said there was no reason to believe the sincerity of the Marcoses.
“Return the ill-gotten wealth and apologize for all the sins committed by the dictatorship and that’s the only time we should believe their sincerity,” said Pangilinan who was among the street parliamentarians who fought the Marcos dictatorship.
But Senator Francis Escudero considered the move by the Marcoses to return part of their wealth “welcome and a step forward.”
“However, the offer might not be enough for some sectors as the meat of the issue for them has always been about three things: admission, accountability and complete reparation,” he added.
Escudero’s father had served in the Marcos Cabinet.
Another LP member, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, said it was just proper for the Marcoses to return their unexplained wealth.
He expressed hope that the talks between the President and the Marcoses would yield positive results.
A party-list lawmaker on Wednesday said that former first lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos personally told him that her family possesses an estimated 7,000 tons of gold bars.
“When I was mayor, Imelda said she wanted to return the gold to the government to wipe out their debts,” he said in Filipino at a news conference.
“I said, why don’t you do it? She said a superpower was blocking them, and that they couldn’t touch the gold, which was deposited in many parts of the world,” he said.
Atienza said Marcos told him that the gold bars weighed 7,000 tons.
Atienza suggested that the country not dwell on other issues but focus on retrieving the ill-gotten wealth, which could help the economy.
Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, on the other hand, said the Marcos offer should be rejected because this would make up only a small fraction of what they looted from public coffers.
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