Marcos denies family’s ill-gotten wealth anew, accuses critics of 'propaganda'

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Marcos denies family�s ill-gotten wealth anew, accuses critics of 'propaganda'
People wave flags as Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers a speech to members of the local Filipino community during an event on the sidelines of the Australia-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in Melbourne on March 4, 2024.
AFP / William West

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has again denied his father’s plunder of billions of public funds during his two-decade rule, calling as “propaganda” the campaign for the Marcos family to return their ill-gotten wealth to the government. 

In an interview with Australia-based ABC News published on Monday, Marcos sought to downplay well-documented evidence that former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had stripped government coffers of at least $5 billion and that his family acquired millions-worth of stolen loot that they even took with them to exile in Hawaii.

Asked to explain why he initially laughed at a question on the billions of money reportedly plundered by his father, Marcos immediately appeared to sober up and said that he “takes exception” to the “assertions” that have been made about his family.

“Since cases were filed, the government failed. Cases were filed against me, my family, the estate etc. Up to now we have ... the assertions that were made were shown to be untrue,” Marcos said.

Marcos also claimed during the interview that a thorough investigation has proved that the ill-gotten wealth acquired by his family was “propaganda.”

“I think that having seen the facts - as they have been slowly reviewed - with true investigation and not propaganda, actual investigation, court cases, investigations by all kinds of NGOs (non-government organizations) and agencies, that has changed. People can see that it was propaganda,” he said.

Shortly after Marcos Sr. fled the country in 1986, the newly created Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) uncovered evidence of Swiss bank accounts, secret international deposit accounts set up on their behalf and extensive global assets owned by the Marcos family. Well-documented evidence of such, including diaries, was recovered when the Marcoses left Malacañang on Feb. 25, 1986.

Estimates of the amount the Marcoses reportedly amassed in the last few years of Marcos Sr. presidency range from US$5 billion to $13 billion. This sizeable loot far exceeds the yearly salary that Marcos Sr. was earning as president, which was about $4,700 or P100,000.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ordered the forfeiture of $658 million worth of frozen Swiss bank deposits belonging to Marcos Sr.  

In 2019, a division of the Sandiganbayan dismissed a P200 billion civil forfeiture case against the Marcos family due to lack of evidence. However, the decision on the case, penned by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, acknowledged the “atrocities committed during Martial Law under the Marcos regime and the ‘plunder’ committed on the country’s resources.” 

In response to calls for the Marcoses to return their ill-gotten wealth, the president also claimed that his family went empty-handed and that “nothing was left” when they sought exile in Hawaii in 1986.

“We have signed - this family has signed quit claims where any money that you find is yours. Everything was taken from us. We were taken to Hawaii. Everything. Everything was taken from us. We had nothing left,” Marcos said.

The president also previously claimed this during his visit to Hawaii in November 2023. 

However, evidence has shown that the Marcoses brought crates of cash, hundreds of jewelry and freshly printed Philippine notes valued at P27 million, among others, when they fled to Hawaii in 1986. 

The Marcoses also brought P397 million worth of bank certificates from the now-defunct Traders Royal Bank, which was confirmed as ill-gotten wealth by a 2021 Sandiganbayan decision ordering its return to the Philippine government.

Marcos' claims in the ABC News interview appear to be his most public denial of his family's corruption since he took office in 2022, spouting the same narratives that his supporters typically echo but which local and international media, civil society and democracy watchdogs have long debunked. 

During the campaign trail for the 2022 presidential elections, Marcos, who was frequently absent in debates and refused to be interviewed, said that he and his father were the biggest "victims" of disinformation. This, however, was another false claim, as a study by fact-checking coalition Tsek.ph in the same year showed that several falsehoods that were spread before the polls were in his favor and against his closest rival to the presidency, former Vice President Leni Robredo.

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