1. The Hunt Continues:

    The PCGG and the Marcoses’ Ill-Gotten Wealth

    When Ferdinand Marcos and his family fled the country on the evening of February 25, 1986, they left with around 300 crates of belongings aboard an Air Force C-141 cargo jet. In a rush, they would leave behind a number of documents, among them a contract with the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, signed with fake names, “William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan” among the first. Deposits to the bank account of Saunders and Ryan started as early as 1968, four years before the declaration of Martial Law. It would later be discovered that the Marcoses held more accounts in other Swiss banks under other aliases and even the names of foundations with unknown beneficiaries.

    Said to amount to $5 to 10 billion, the Marcoses’ Swiss assets constitute merely a part of the family’s accumulated wealth throughout their years of rule. They also held accounts in Security Bank and Trust Company (SBTC), depositing funds acquired from shares in corporations like the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), and Oriental Petroleum, among others.   

    For over 30 years, and now under its sixth president since 1986, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has been retrieving this wealth for the Philippine treasury, through which it will be allocated to the national budget. Recovered jewelry, paintings, buildings, and other luxury items are typically auctioned by the PCGG through auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, both based in the UK. So far, the PCGG has recovered Php170.45 billion in ill-gotten wealth. To scale, such amount could fund the building of almost 70,000 public classrooms.

    Here is a timeline showing some of the efforts made by the Philippine government through the PCGG, as well as measures taken by other groups, to recover Marcos wealth. Many of the difficulties in this endeavor have stemmed from legal issues, compromise with cronies, and the individual claims of human rights victims during the regime.

  2. 1986

    The Aquino administration establishes the PCGG through Executive Order No. 1; the PCGG files claims to Marcos property here and abroad

    US Customs freezes millions of dollars worth of money and gold from the Marcoses when they flee to Hawaii

    A group of Martial Law victims, through human rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), file a class action suit against the Marcos estate.

  3. 1988

    The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or RA 6657 is signed into law. Under this, agricultural lands are to be redistributed to landless farmers. Among the sources of funding is the Marcoses’ stolen wealth recovered through the PCGG.

    As of 2015, a total of over Php78 billion in ill-gotten wealth has been reserved for the CARP account.
  4. 1989

    An inventory of recovered Old Masters paintings, jewelry, and other luxury items is done through a partnership between the PCGG and the Commission on Audit.

  5. 1991

    Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Law is established.
    Former senator and first PCGG chair Jovito Salonga filed in the Senate various bills that would become RA 7080.

  6. 1992

    Class action suit filed by Martial Law victims through SELDA in Hawaii court is won.
    Two jewelry collections are seized: the Hawaii collection is turned over to the PCGG and the Roumeliotes collection to the Bureau of Customs.

    The Roumeliotes collection is names after Demetriou Roumeliotes, a Greek businessman and a friend to the Marcoses, who attempted to smuggle some jewelry out of the Malacañang after the Marcoses fled.
  7. 1995

    Victims of the regime are instructed to file claims in order for the US court to dispense $1.96 billion in compensation and damages justly.

  8. 1997

    PCGG completes investigation into Php15.74 billion in behest loans in government banks like Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

  9. 1999

    Congress, under the administration of then President Joseph Estrada, cuts PCGG budget by 50%. Early in his administration, Estrada promised to abolish the PCGG altogether.

  10. 2001

    Criminal complaints against former PCGG chairs and directors are filed before the Ombudsman for their unauthorized sale of a Falcon jet previously owned by Marcos.

  11. 2003

    The Supreme Court orders the forfeiture of Swiss bank deposits in favor of the PCGG and not the human rights victims staking individual claims.

    “Despots and crime barons, large and small, have deposited millions in Switzerland for decades without consequence for most. But the Marcos fortune was different because of its size and embarrassment to the Swiss from the lengthy efforts of the country’s government to retrieve it.” – Elizabeth Olson, New York Times, 1998.
  12. 2007

    PCGG is given additional mandate to pursue cases arising from inactive loans with government banks. This function was previously under the mandate given to the defunct Presidential Ad-Hoc Fact-Finding Committee.

  13. 2011

    Twelve Martial Law victims are granted the first set of compensation checks, which came from a settlement with the family of a Marcos ally (approx. $10 million), not the $2 billion won from the case.
    The seeming dispute between the PCGG and individual claimants comes from differing views on how the Marcos loot must be redistributed. Reparations are clearly due victims of the regime. However, there is also the logic that the Marcos loot is representative of plunder of the entire state, hence recompense is due the entire country – not only the victims – through the PCGG.

    “The money is important…but more important is to send a message to would-be human rights violators that they cannot hide anywhere.” – Rene Saguisag, lawyer and Senator at the time of the class suit
  14. 2013

    Humans Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 is established. The law also includes the formation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB), mandated to dispense compensation to Martial Law victims. HRVCB is to adjudicate claims that would be filed by Martial Law victims and decide whether they would be granted recompense depending on how strongly they substantiate their claims. Victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation and those listed in the class action suit are automatically rendered eligible for reparation.

  15. 2016

    A photo exhibit of Marcos jewelry, made possible by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, is featured at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. The PCGG also posted photos of select Marcos jewelry on its social media accounts.
    Ferdinand E. Marcos is buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani after being held in his hometown.

  16. 2017

    HRVCB releases list of first 4,000 Martial Law victims eligible to claim reparations from the board; the allotted budget for this initial stream of reparations is Php300 million.


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    Mydans, S. (2011, March 1). First payments are made to victims of Marcos rule. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/world/asia/02philippines.html.
    Nicholls, A. (2015, November 24). PCGG holds appraisal of Marcos jewelry. CNN Philippines. Retrieved from http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2015/11/24/marcos-jewelry-appraisal-pcgg-Roumeliotes-collection.html.
    Olson, E. (1998, October 23). Ferdinand Marcos’s Swiss Bank legacy: Tigher rules for despots and criminals. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/23/world/ferdinand-marcos-s-swiss-bank-legacy-tighter-rules-for-despots-and-criminals.html
    Presidential Commission on Good Government. Retrieved from http://pcgg.gov.ph.