Ex-PCGG chair: At least $6B worth of Marcos wealth still unretrieved

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24) — Amid controversies surrounding the unpaid estate taxes of the Marcos family, a former chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government looked back at the scope of their alleged ill-gotten wealth and the huge amount still unrecovered by the government.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, ex-PCGG chair Andy Bautista cited the estimate of former PCGG chair Jovito Salonga and former US Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Bosworth as of 1986 of up to $10 billion — more than ₱500 billion in current exchange rate — of accumulated wealth under the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Bautista said the PCGG has so far recovered more than $3 billion or ₱171 billion ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses and their cronies since the commission was created in 1986. He said if government were to stick with this figure, this means around $6 billion has yet to be retrieved from the family.

"But there was also an estimate provided by Dr. Jesus Estanislao and Dr. Bernie Villegas...their estimate was closer to $30 billion (ill-gotten wealth)," Bautista said.

This amount is equivalent to ₱1.5 trillion today, nearly a third of the current national budget, which could finance government programs.

Estanislao was a former Finance and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary under the administration of former President Cory Aquino while Villegas was one of the economic advisers of former President Fidel Ramos.

A meeting with the Marcoses

Meanwhile, Bautista recounted how the Marcos siblings reached out to him when he was PCGG chair for an "exploratory" meeting about a potential settlement surrounding the amassed wealth.

"Bakit ka makikipagmeeting tungkol sa potential settlement kung hindi mo naman iniisip na may gusto kang ibalik para matapos na ang mga kaso? (Why would you want to have a meeting for a potential settlement if you don't think that you're supposed to return something to the government just to clear your cases)?" Bautista said.

Bautista said during that conversation, he proposed a negotiating framework to the Marcoses, which would not just require a PCGG approval, but also of then-President Benigno Aquino III as well.

"Sabi ko, 'ito ang gawin natin, isipin natin as of 1986 kung sabihin niyong $10 billion tapos magkano ang nabalik na yaman at that point time — I think we were about 3 point something billion dollars — iawas niyo yun, and yun na, magkakaroon ng negotiation.'"

[Translation: I told them, if as of 1986, the accumulated amount was at $10 billion, minus what was returned, you subtract it from there and we could have a negotiation.]

Bautista never heard from the Marcoses after.

Over ₱125 billion worth of real and personal properties by the Marcoses are currently under litigation.

Bautista also commented on the family's unsettled estate taxes which have ballooned from ₱23 billion in 1997 to over ₱203 billion.

"Dito, ang pwede pa ring mangyari, for example pinapatawan sila ng estate tax ng BIR dahil itong asset na ito kasama doon. Ang pwede nilang sabihin, 'hindi naman amin iyan eh,' so ibabalik nila yung kung ano man yung property na yun, be it cash, be it real estate, be it jewelry." Bautista said.

[Translation: What can happen here is, for example, since the BIR wants them to pay for their estate taxes because of their accumulated assets, the Marcoses can say 'that's not ours,' then they should return the property, be it cash, be it real estate, be it jewelry.]

"Ang problema (the problem is), there's a big issue in respect of what are they claiming to be their own lawfully...I'm sure the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) has some leeway in terms of negotiating what the proper estate tax should be, pero kailangan bayaran yan (but those need to be paid)," he said.