DAVAO CITY: A Philippine commission set up to recover unexplained wealth accumulated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his associates has vowed to continue the hunt under the presidency of his namesake son.
Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965 until he was overthrown by the bloodless popular uprising known as People Power and fled the country in 1986. During part of his term he declared the martial law, a period marred by numerous human rights violations.
The Marcos family and their associates have been accused of looting an estimated $10 billion from the country while millions of Filipinos suffered from poverty.
Marcos’ wife was known for her displays of wealth which included lavish shopping sprees in New York, spending millions on jewelry and art.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government, created shortly after the departure of the former dictator from the Philippines, was mandated to prevent cases of corruption and recover “all the ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos , his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad.
So far, he has recouped around half of the wealth and concerns are growing over whether he will be able to continue in office as Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will officially become the Philippines’ next president on June 30, after winning a landslide victory in the vote last month.
“Since the establishment of the agency, we have recovered approximately $5 billion,” PCGG Chairman John Agbayani told Arab News earlier this week, adding that the commission was “still committed to fulfilling its mandate of recovery”.
“Incoming President Marcos has said he will not abolish PCGG or initiate any movement to that effect,” he said.
But while Agbayani has said the agency will not relinquish its mandate, it is the president who has the power to appoint PCGG commissioners. He can also assign the tasks of the agency.
Spokespersons for the president-elect were unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to reach them, but Marcos himself said during his presidential campaign that he would strengthen the anti-corruption body to prosecute all government officials corrupt.
“You could say that the first time it was organized it was really an anti-Marcos agency, nevertheless, you could make it a real anti-corruption agency,” he said in a television interview on April 26.
But the Marcoses are still accused in dozens of cases related to their wealth. The president-elect’s mother, Imelda Marcos, 92, is appealing her conviction on seven separate corruption charges in 2018, each carrying a maximum prison sentence of 11 years.
Critics doubt that the remaining assets will be recovered by the Philippines, especially in the near future.
“With Marcos Jr. coming to power on June 30, I doubt the effort to strengthen the PCGG will materialize,” Congressman Carlos Isagani Zarate said. “Marcos can even abolish this agency.”
But some vow to pressure the new administration to hold agencies such as the PCGG to their mandates.
“It’s the public interest,” Samira Gutoc, a former Mindanao lawmaker who represents the opposition Aksyon Demokratiko party, told Arab News. “They have to show people that they work. We need pressure from outside groups.