DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – They invested their hard-earned money and votes in exchange for the promise of shares of the much talked about Marcos wealth.
Now, many of them are complaining about not getting anything of what was promised to recruits by people who introduced themselves as representatives of two pro-Marcos organizations called Maharlika and United BBM Loyalist International.
Others, however, have not lost hope, and are patiently waiting for their investment returns to this day.
Thousands of mostly poverty-stricken people and farmers across the Davao Region paid from P500 to P1,000 to join two organizations that allegedly promised rewards ranging from P100,000 to as much as P500,000 to each card-bearing member and volunteer worker.
The recruitments intensified during the election month of May, and many poor people from the outlying villages of Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, and Davao del Norte scrambled to pay the membership fees.
Capistrano Jose Tawaning, a farmer in an outlying village in Mati City, said he remembered Tagalog-speaking organizers meeting with recruits in January, and promising them as much as P500,000 each.
“They said the amount would be sourced out from the confiscated ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family,” the 56-year-old Tawaning said in Bisaya.
He said the promise was that they would start receiving their shares in July after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed the presidency.
Herbal medicine vendor Mercedita Tagalandig said she joined the bandwagon because nearly all the people in her community paid the membership fees.
She said she needed money at that time but decided to pay a P500 membership fee.
Marcos, she said, was already emerging as the sure winner, and she had thought that she would financially benefit from his election victory in terms of Marcos wealth shares.
Naturally, she said, she campaigned and supported Marcos all the way.
There are some Mandaya and Manobo villages in Mati City such as Mamali, Lanca, Luban, and Cabuaya where recruits were charged P1,000 each so they would be listed as members of Maharlika and the United BBM Loyalist International.
“It is widespread here,” Barangay Sentral, Mati City village councilor Neelan Luciano said of the group Maharlika on Wednesday, December 14.
Luciano said the group “has been around for quite some time, collecting money from people with a promise that they would get shares of the wealth of the Marcos family.”
Mati City Councilor Daniel Macaubos, Sentral barangay chairman and president of the local Liga ng mga Barangay, said he has started looking into the operations of Maharlika and the United BBM Loyalist International.
He called on those who paid the groups’ membership fees to file formal complaints as he prepares to bring the matter before the Mati city council.
Macaubos said the local government would also need to start an information campaign and warn people about the two groups.
Captain Marivic Toloy, acting spokesperson and the head of the Mati City police’s women’s and children’s desk, said they have been receiving questions from people who wanted to know whether or not Maharlika is a legitimate organization.
She said many people were made to believe that the group is a charity arm of the Marcos family.
“The group promised its members that they would get money from the Marcos family,” Toloy told Rappler.
Maharlika and the United BBM Loyalist International have been recruiting members as early as January.
Members said none of the groups issued official receipts to those who paid their membership fees.
The United BBM Loyalist International, however, issued identification cards to its members.
Their offices in the villages of Matiao and Sentral in Mati City are already closed, according to members.
“We don’t know where to go. We must have been duped. As far as I know, no one received the promised amount of P100,000,” 56-year-old Mati fisherman Leopoldo Martillano said in Bisaya.
But many members of Maharlika in the remote villages of Lanca, Luban, Cabuaya, and Mamali in Mati City, said they were still hopeful that they would get their shares of the promised Marcos wealth.
One of them, Luisa Parandang, said, “It is still too early to say that we were scammed. Remember that Bongbong Marcos won. We supported him in the last elections. We are hoping that one day, the organizers will come back to our village and bring the promised P100,000 for each of us.”
Coconut farmer Benjie Samuel Halud said he was convinced that President Marcos would share his family’s wealth with them.
“I believe his heart bleeds for the poor,” the 21-year-old Halud said.
Luciano, the village councilor from Barangay Sentral, said, “It’s a scam!” – Rappler.com