Marcos ill-gotten wealth

Will PH fight to get $40-million Marcos loot in New York? ‘I leave it to lawyers’

Dwight de Leon, Lian Buan

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Will PH fight to get $40-million Marcos loot in New York? ‘I leave it to lawyers’

MARCOS JR. AND THE PRESS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. takes part in the forum mounted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on April 15, 2024.

Presidential Communications Office

'I really haven't looked at it in years and I would advise you to talk to the lawyers that are handling it,' Marcos says when asked about the Arelma assets, which according to the Supreme Court constitute ill-gotten wealth

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was put on the spot during a journalists-led luncheon about a pending case involving his family’s ill-gotten wealth, and, when he struggled to recall the specifics, asked the media to talk to his lawyers instead.

During the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) presidential forum on Monday, April 15, Marcos Jr. was asked about the Arelma case, which is among the corporate entities used by his dictator-father, Ferdinand E. Marcos, and his cronies to amass wealth.

In 2009, the Sandiganbayan found that the Arelma assets constituted ill-gotten wealth, and forfeited the amount worth $3.3 million to the government, but added that the amount will include interests and income that accrued from the judgment until it is returned to the treasury. The Supreme Court upheld the anti-graft court’s ruling in 2012, and then again in 2014. According to a US filing in 2016, the amount has since ballooned to $40 million.

Even though the Supreme Court has re-conveyed the Arelma assets to the Philippines, the assets are in New York and would need separate litigation there to obtain it and finally turn it over to the government.

“Now that you are the president representing the Philippine government, with a solicitor general and the PCGG under you, which side will you represent, Mr. President? Will you fight yourself so that the Philippine government that you now represent can finally get it for the Filipino people?” journalist and FOCAP member Raissa Robles asked.

The PCGG, short for Presidential Commission on Good Government, is the government body tasked to recover wealth stolen by the Marcosses and their associates. The PCGG was formed in the aftermath of the 1986 People Power Revolution, the uprising that forced the Marcos family into exile in Hawaii.

In response, Marcos Jr. claimed it was difficult for him to answer the question.

“I really haven’t looked at it in years and I would advise you to talk to the lawyers that are handling it because I’m not being specious or anything like that. I haven’t heard of the name Arelma in a long time. We were still in Hawaii when we were hearing that name,” Marcos said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“The previous cases that are post-1986, I have not touched. It would be highly improper for me to involve myself in that. Besides, I don’t have the time to do it, so I leave it to the lawyers,” he added.

Marcos’ statement that he had “not touched” any of the cases is curious because he, along with his mother, was the petitioner when the family appealed the 2012 Supreme Court decision, which they lost.

American human rights lawyer Robert Swift, who represents the victims of Martial Law, said he would rather that those assets be distributed to victims rather than to go to government treasury.

How the Philippine government will strategize this move is dependent upon the Office of the Solicitor General and PCGG, which, as journalist Robles pointed out, are both under Marcos’ executive branch. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.
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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.