Senate file photo
MANILA, Philippines – Rather than form another body to facilitate the return of ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses, it would be better for President Rodrigo Duterte to use the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), said former senate president Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr.
"Because the PCGG was created precisely to recover the Marcos wealth. And if President Digong can trust PCGG officials, then probably the better way would be for them to handle it," said Pimentel on Thursday, September 7.
He was speaking at a Malacañang news briefing.
Duterte previously mentioned plans to abolish the PCGG and appoint persons "not connected with anybody" to lead in negotiations with the Marcoses for the return of their wealth to the government.
But Pimentel said that if Duterte does not trust current PCGG officials to do the job, it would be more practical for him to just appoint new officials instead of creating a new body or group.
"If the people here (PCGG) do not have his confidence, then, as President, he has the right to appoint the new members of that body who can really recover the Marcos wealth for the benefit of the people," said Pimentel.
The PCGG was created during the post-Edsa Revolution administration of Corazon Aquino to recover the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.
However, the former lawmaker said he agreed with Duterte that a law is needed to facilitate the recovery of the Marcos wealth.
Such a law, Pimentel said, was "necessary" to define the policy that will guide how the wealth would be returned to the government. It would also guide the process for granting immunity for the Marcoses, if lawmakers decide to put in such a provision.
Some lawmakers have opposed immunity for the late dictator's family. Pimentel said that one important consideration are the different ways to resolve the Marcoses' civil and criminal liability.
"The return of the hidden wealth of the Marcoses, that will cover only the civil aspect of the cases. You know very well that under our law, you can settle the civil aspects. But the criminal aspect, that’s a different story. It depends on the proof," said Pimentel.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman earlier said that Duterte has the full authority to negotiate with the Marcos family, by virtue of an executive order signed by the late president Corazon Aquino.
That authority, however, does not extend to the granting of immunity or pardon in exchange for the return of stolen wealth.
But the act of returning loot amassed during the Marcos dictatorship shows a "certain degree of regret" although "not verbally expressed," said Pimentel.
The politically-charged nature of the affair was likely one reason why Duterte passed the ball into Congress' court instead of deciding by himself on the Marcos wealth.
"That alone, that the President wants a law to be adopted is a sign that he does not want to decide it on his own.... You can see the hesitancy of the President to say, 'I will decide this thing on my own.' It's really better that there is a law about that," said Pimentel.
The President, last August 29, claimed the Marcos family had reached out to him to return a portion of their wealth, including "a few gold bars," to help him fund government programs.
They had supposedly explained that their patriarch, Ferdinand Marcos, only kept the wealth in order to "protect the economy." Duterte said he accepts this explanation.
Vice President Leni Robredo said the Marcoses must first admit to wrongdoing before they can be granted immunity. Some House lawmakers opposed the granting of immunity saying "justice must be served." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.