Palace: hunt for ill-gotten wealth will continue
MANILA, Philippines - [UPDATED] Despite plans by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to wind down its operations, Malacañang assured the public that the hunt for the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth will continue.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters that the PCGG's recommendation to end efforts to recover stolen assets by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family and cronies, was actually not something new.
He stressed, however than even if Congress agrees to the proposal, the ill-gotten wealth cases will continue. "If the office is abolished by Congress, it does not mean the ill-gotten wealth cases will die," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.
And the proposal remains that--a mere proposal, according to Lacierda. "It has to be pursued and the recommendation of the PCGG, again let me emphasize, it has not been discussed with the President," he said.
Lacierda cited a report posted the previous year on the website of the PCGG which spoke of the commission's plans to wind down operations. The report, posted on January 2011, is entitled, 'An Introduction to the Conclusion: 100-Day Report on Plan of Action.'
"You can see from this particular report that they have certain suggestions, for instance, legislative abolition of the commission and then transferring the assets to DOF (Department of Finance) and also to DOJ (Department of Justice) — at least the ill-gotten wealth cases (are) to be handled by the DOJ," he said.
Lacierda said there had been no discussion yet on the proposal but it would be brought up with the President.
"Principally, this report would show as early as 2011 that they intend (or) at least (PCGG) chairman (Andres) Bautista intends PCGG to be eventually functus oficio, to cease to be an office, and so they outlined the process of transition," Lacierda said.
Bautista was quoted in a report as saying the cost of the pursuit for Marcos wealth had become prohibitive and that Marcos' widow, Imelda and children were back in power.
"Remember, the President has always stated that we file the best cases. But, in the case of PCGG, these are cases filed long before we stepped into office. So that is a statement coming from the experience of the PCGG chairman and the experience of his office. We do not wish to make comment on the statement by the PCGG chairman," Lacierda said.
Asked about the performance of the PCGG, Lacierda said he did not think it was a failure.
"It’s so sweeping to say it’s a failure. They also have recovered a lot of ill-gotten wealth. That’s why we would like to invite you to look at the report itself. It shows the achievements, accomplishments (of PCGG) up to until 2011," he said.
"The best agency to describe how the progress (is) and how to characterize the whole pursuit of the ill-gotten wealth is on the report itself. We do not wish to second-guess PCGG. They have seen their trials and their tribulations so we will leave it with the PCGG to describe how they pursued the ill-gotten wealth cases," Lacierda said.
Lacierda said PCGG could report on its accomplishments in 2011 and beyond.
"So I would not want to say it’s a failure. We have seen (its) success under the chairmanship of Chairman Bautista," Lacierda said.
One such success, according to Lacierda, is a recent case in New York City where the former secretary of the former first lady was prevented from selling some very expensive paintings. "Now, I think, PCGG was made a witness to that particular case."
Legislative records show that a bill abolishing the PCGG has been pending in the House committee on government reorganization since January 2011.
“More than 20 years and four administrations have passed, the PCGG has not produced significant accomplishments that would justify its existence,” House Bill 4049 filed by Representatives Sergio Apostol (Leyte) and Pedro Romualdo (Camiguin) said.
The authors said that the work performed by the PCGG is “not commensurate to the annual expenses needed to maintain the office.”
“The time is ripe to abolish PCGG in line with the cost-saving efforts of the government,” the bill stated.
Under the proposal, the powers and functions of the PCGG shall be transferred to the Department of Justice.
Asked if the DOJ would do better in going after the reported P10-billion more ill-gotten wealth, Lacierda said: "We don’t know yet what would be the decision. But the DOJ certainly, once it is mandated to handle that, they will perform to the utmost best and we expect no less (than that)."
In a text message to reporters, Liberal Party member and House committee on public information chairman Ben Evardone criticized the move of the PCGG to stop efforts in recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.
“The PCGG should not give up just like that because it’s not only the amount of wealth that needs to be recovered, that is important, but also justice to the Filipino people. PCGG should not easily give up. The PCGG should vigorously pursue the quest for justice of the Filipino people,” he said.
ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio, for his part, said PCGG head Bautista should resign as chairman “since it appears that he does not have the desire and will to pursue the Marcos ill-gotten wealth”. - Rappler.com