Will legal battles between Marcos Jr. and cronies erupt?

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

There’s going to be a battle royal of sorts and it will likely erupt in the courtrooms.

This is the scenario that retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio imagines will unfold between the Marcoses and their once-upon-a-time cronies if Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. becomes the country’s next president.

“The Marcoses will squeeze them, put extra legal pressure on them to pay the shares the Marcoses claimed they owned. Exactly what Imelda stated,” Justice Carpio told me by phone.

We have been exchanging messages the past couple of days as I’ve been asking about the reminders he has been giving the public of what might happen if Marcos Jr. wins.

Goodbye PCGG

Justice Carpio believes that if Marcos Jr. becomes president, he will probably abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the government office tasked to recover the Marcos wealth.

“If Bongbong Marcos becomes president, I do not expect the P125 billion to be recovered anymore. The first thing he’ll do, he’ll probably abolish the PCGG,” the retired justice said.

The P125 billion is the estimated remaining amount of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth that has yet to be recovered.

Bigger problem

Justice Carpio also does not expect Marcos Jr. to pay the government P203 billion in estate tax supposedly owed by his family to the government based on the P23.3 billion assessment by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 1991 on the estate tax of Marcos Sr. who died two years prior.  The arrears have ballooned to P203 billion, with interest charges and all.

“(Marcos Jr.) is the administrator of the estate; he has been ordered by the court to pay; he refuses to pay up to now, and nobody seems to hold him to account for that. If he becomes president, it will be goodbye to that P203 billion,” Justice Carpio said.

Surely, he said, Marcos Jr. would not send a collection letter to himself in case he becomes the country’s chief executive.

“The right of the Filipino people to recover P203 billion in estate tax will be gone forever,” Justice Carpio said.

Cronies and dummy corporations

But the real chaos that may erupt, Justice Carpio warned, would be between the Marcoses and their alleged cronies.

Justice Carpio believes the Marcoses will resurrect their ownership claims over a portion of some companies in the country today if Marcos Jr. makes his way to Malacanang.

In a stunning claim she made in 1998, former first lady Imelda Marcos said their family owns majority stakes in many Philippine companies.

Imelda’s wish list includes PLDT, San Miguel Corp., Manila Electric Co., Manila Bulletin, United Coconut Planters Bank (soon to merge with Land Bank of the Philippines), Allied Bank (which was merged with Philippine National Bank) and Fortune Tobacco Corp..

“We will take back everything that the trustees held on behalf of Ferdinand Marcos, including those that they have sold and surrendered to the government. I have evidence that these trustees who eventually turned their backs on us and became untrusted can never ever dispute,” Imelda Marcos said. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1998).

That series of interviews with Imelda is not available online. I also read that the supposed nine-part tale was stopped after Imelda requested the newspaper to prematurely end the series. She said then that her fax machine “is throwing up death threats.” The reporter who interviewed Imelda, the feisty investigative journalist Christine Herrera, died in 2017.

But the story didn’t die with Christine. It may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. There are records in the Senate after it grilled Imelda about her revelations.

Imelda also claims she has a room filled with documents, such as stock certificates, to prove their family’s ownership in the different corporations.

But as I earlier said, it might not be a walk in the park for the Marcoses because some of these companies have already been dissolved, merged or have taken on new identities through layers and layers of several other corporations.

Still, I heard that some of the concerned businessmen are jittery and anxious of what might happen.

Aside from the alleged cronies, I heard that quite a number of high net worth individuals are already crafting exit plans – for their money – as they fear that a crisis may erupt after the May elections.  Some are said to be opening accounts abroad to safe keep their funds.

As for the possible battle royal, for sure, it’s going to be a heyday for lawyers and fixers who will likely make a killing in this royal rumble.

Some tycoons will likely hire legal luminaries to hold their fort. I told Justice Carpio in jest that some of these businessmen may need his services to defend their assets if Marcos Jr. indeed becomes president and pursues his mother’s claim.

But unfortunately for the businessmen, Justice Carpio won’t be available.

“I’m retired,” he said.

The story, however, isn’t retired or dead. It might even take on a whole new life.

For now, these are all imaginings – mine, Justice Carpio’s, and just about every jittery crony – until they become reality.

But we do need to remind ourselves that people who have tasted absolute power – with all its opulence and grandeur – never make good retirees.

For sure, it will be interesting to watch the Marcoses and their alleged cronies battle it out over the once-secret fortune.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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