MANILA, Philippines – Imelda Marcos would host dinners and parties in their posh 6-story Manhattan townhouse in New York in the 1980s. The townhouse was home to the Marcoses’ precious art collection, much of it, the government says, was bought using public funds.
Three decades after their ouster, one of the Marcoses’ trusted officials executed an affidavit before the anti-graft court confirming that he had seen at least 4 of the more than 100 artworks that the government is now trying to locate.
In his 7-page judicial affidavit submitted to the Sandiganbayan last March 4, Jaime Laya said he was invited “about 3 or 4 times” to parties at the Marcoses’ townhouse on 13-15 66th East Street in Manhattan, New York, during the time he was Central Bank governor from January 1981 to January 1984.
“They were dinners. At the ones I attended, guests would assemble in the library, then proceed to the dining room and after dinner, go on to the living room and/or to the ‘disco’ on the top floor. Mrs. Marcos hosted the dinners and guests included bankers, artists, and officialdom,” Laya said.
Laya said the townhouse had 6 floors with two doors from the sidewalk “leading to a hall where there was a grand staircase leading to the central corridor on the second floor.” An elevator serviced the upper floors.
He said the dining room was at the ground floor while a library and the living room were both on the second level. Bedrooms in the third, fourth, and fifth floors while the top floor held a function room fitted out as a disco and a greenhouse.
“The various rooms were elegantly furnished with what seemed like antique furniture, porcelain, chandeliers, paintings, and sculpture,” Laya said.
Among the artworks he could recall, the former Central Bank official said he saw David and Goliath by Francisco de Zurbaran, Marquesa de Santa Cruz by Francisco Goya, a Madonna and Child by Peter Paul Rubens and a winter scene by Dutch artist Hendrick Avercamp.
He said Zurbaran’s work was hanging “on the first floor near the elevator” while the Goya had a spot “above the fireplace in the library.”
“I like paintings and was impressed particularly by those two works (the Zurbaran and the Goya). I remember reading an article describing the Goya portrait which was of the Marquesa de Santa Cruz,” he explained.
It was last February when the court ordered Laya to executive an affdavit as part of the Presidential Commission on Good Government’s (PCGG) evidence in a forfeiture case filed 3 decades ago yet.
The PCGG is now asking the Sandiganbayan to resolve the forfeiture case on 3 Marcos collection of artworks with a total acquisition value of $24 million.
The artworks were part of the $5 billion to $10 billion ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 to 1986, according to the PCGG.
Laya said that before being appointed as governor of the Central Bank (now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), he also held positions as deputy director general of the National Economic and Development Authority in 1975 and as budget commissioner in 1975 to 1981.
Upon leaving the Central Bank in 1984, he was appointed Minister of Education, Culture, and Sports until 1986. – Rappler.com
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