On March 5, 1986, the late President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino discussed the recovery of the Marcos wealth with the late US Democrat Congressman Stephen Solarz of New York who came to Manila to talk about the Military Bases Agreement, among other things.
A week later, President Aquino issued Executive Order 2, freezing all assets of the Marcoses and their associates. With this sweeping edict, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) no longer had to bother with filing cases in court against particular persons, corporations and other assets.
Another week had passed, Solarz painted Marcos as a corrupt president, releasing to the international press a “Marcos document” purportedly showing proof of corruption involving Marcos and 79 Japanese companies contracted to undertake Philippine projects funded with Japanese aid. The scandal-sensitive Japanese Diet promptly asked the National Revenue Bureau (NRB) to investigate the involved firms.
The Solarz document later turned out to be a hoax as shown by the NRB findings, but the local and international media deliberately obfuscated the NRB official report. In Japan, however, Asahi Shimbun, the largest newspaper in that country, exposed the sham story, thus:
“The firms were never found to have committed any payoffs. The only firms that were mentioned by the NRB Report as failing to report income were Mitsubishi, C. Itoh, and Kawasaki, and the amounts involved were rather small.
“On top of that, they all claimed that those unreported income had nothing to do with Marcos. They all said that technical interpretation of tax laws was the reason for the discrepancy.
“Marubeni Corporation, which was known to have been the largest recipient of project-related business, was found to be entirely proper in its business dealing. The NRB could not find any clue or even suspicion of payoff to Marcos.
“Sumitomo, which handled the Cagayan Valley Electrification Project, paid $210,000 as commission to Philippine agents, but those were also considered within normal business practice. One of the executives who handled the deal said, ‘I’ve never heard of any money going to President Marcos.’
“With the NRB’s efforts, the ‘Marcos document’ failed to turn up any incriminating evidence against Mr. Marcos. Formal investigation in Japan into Marcos corruption had now come to an end.”
Solarz had actually given the press a litany of fake news, and he remedied the falsehood by deliberately not reporting the NRB’s official findings to the US Congress and the American press.
Capitalizing on Solarz’s spate of lies, they—the yellows and their pseudo-moralists and hypocrites—continued to demonize President Marcos and his wife, former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Second District Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
Worse, the Marcoses’ side of the story was never printed by the press, especially how the Cory Aquino administration subjected them to prejudgment of guilt, deprived them of their worldly possessions, restricted their movements and charged them with racketeering, obstruction of justice and mail fraud involving billions of pesos in that trial of the century in New York.
Records of the New York Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) trial and other investigative materials put into a 347-page best-selling book, A Country Imperiled (Tragic Lessons of a Distorted History), authored by Cecilio Arillo and published by Amazon in 2011, showed how the Marcoses were persecuted. They were not only maltreated by individuals; governments and superpowers also tried to systematically destroy them, using greedy politicians and elite businessmen, backed by 16 foreign media personalities and hundreds of local journalists and propagandists.
After they conspired to oust the Marcoses from power and accused them in the RICO case of allegedly stealing money from the Filipino people, the Aquino regime and US government prosecutors presented in court 95 witnesses and 350,000 documents, including those allegedly seized from their private chambers in Malacañang purportedly showing that they embezzled billions of pesos.
One must be prepared to take the absurd in looking at the so-called loot that had been transformed into a propaganda hyperbole to demonize the Marcoses. One estimate put the “ill-gotten wealth” at $356 million. Other charges, based on rumors, said the Marcoses had Swiss accounts ranging from $7 billion to $13.4 billion and a “gold hoard” worth $250 billion stashed in Swiss banks and other overseas banks.
Whatever was the figure, it doesn’t simply make sense at all. How could the Marcoses have stolen such huge amount when the total accumulated official budget of the Marcos regime in 20 years was only P486.2 billion?
Besides, Victor Macalincag, the national treasurer and deputy minister of finance at that time, admitted that there was P28 billion in the national Treasury when President Marcos was forcibly exiled to Hawaii, debunking claims by Cory and her supporters that the Treasury was empty.
By comparison, the accumulated budgets of the five presidents who succeeded President Marcos—from President Cory Aquino, her son Benigno Aquino III, and the three presidents between them, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo—reached more than P35 trillion in over 31 years.
In the post-Marcos years, the country saw a series of plunder cases, corruption in high places, economic sabotage, human-rights violations, insurgencies, hundreds of killings of journalists and serious problems of brownouts, flooding and horrendous traffic in the metropolis.
Exercising dictatorial powers, Cory Aquino ordered the sequestration of all assets of the Marcoses without according them due process. Executive Order 1 said: “Vast resources of the government have been amassed by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives and close associates…”
The Supreme Court eventually disallowed the assumption that the Marcos assets were “ill-gotten.” The SC would rule that the government had to substantiate and prove its allegation that the sequestered or frozen assets were, in fact, ill-gotten, specifically citing the case of Republic of the Philippines (PCGG) v. Sandiganbayan, et al. (G.R. 119292) on July 31, 1998.
Another investigation had also been undertaken, this time by the US General Accounting Office (GAO). This probe was also instigated by New York Congressman Stephen Solarz and commissioned by Sen. Edward Kennedy, who, while the counting of ballots in the 1986 snap election was still in progress, declared that “Corazon C. Aquino won that election lock, stock and barrel,” although, as journalist James Hamilton-Paterson noted, “he had not been in Manila at the time.”
On May 2, 1986, the GAO submitted its report to Solarz. The GAO said:
“We have examined the accountability and control over US assistance given to the Philippines. Between fiscal years 1978 and 1985, the United States made available to the Philippines almost $1.3 billion in Economic Support Fund [ESF], Development Assistance [DA], Public Law 480 Food Aid and military assistance.
“Financial and administrative controls were adequate to ensure that ESF local currency disbursements for project activities were justified. Financial transactions showed approved amounts to have been disbursed and received by contractors.
“There was no indication of withdrawals from the accounts for unauthorized construction activities.
“We received several allegations concerning the misuse of US assistance, such as incomplete or nonexistent facilities, overcharges and substandard construction. We interviewed the individuals making the allegations and tried to document instances of abuse.
“We could not substantiate the charges.
“None of the officials of the multilateral organizations we spoke with were aware of diversion of assistance.”
Over a decade later, on March 25, 1996, Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos then of the First District of Leyte would protest to her colleagues in Congress:
“This report was never made public. Neither did Solarz submit his findings to the United States Lower House.
“The accusations against Marcos continued in the American media based on the allegations of Solarz. Neither the State Department nor the appropriate Congressional committees made public their comments on the report, if any were made at all. The American media obviously did not request for a copy, or if they did, never released this to the public. Solarz of the US House Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific Affairs continued his attacks on Marcos, in spite of the US GAO Report.”
Why were the official reports (NRB and GAO) that absolved President Marcos ignored, if not suppressed?
What did Solarz stand to gain from vilifying Marcos? What possible motivation was compelling enough for him to disregard the official reports? If he did not relish the politically depressing step of apologizing to the Marcoses, he could at least have stopped his derogatory crusade.
Solarz died of cancer in 2010, one year after President Aquino passed away, also of cancer.
Cory and US govt charged Marcos
On June 11, 1986, the Aquino administration “authorized” the US government to file criminal charges against the Marcoses in America. This weird maneuver was consummated in Manila with the signing of a document, “Agreement on Procedures for Mutual Legal Assistance,” by PCGG Chairman Jovito R. Salonga and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing of the US Department of Justice.
The US Justice Department had earlier said, “Mr. Marcos should not be indicted [in the US] until the government of the Philippines had provided full waiver of his residual immunity.” Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez signed the waiver for the Philippine government. Apparently, this waiver was still inadequate, and so the Salonga-Toensing agreement was formulated.
Following the signing of this agreement, a criminal case was filed in Los Angeles against the Marcoses for violating the US Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute.
Back in the Philippines, five months had elapsed after the PCGG’s creation. However, the catchphrase “ill-gotten wealth” remained ill defined, drawing a reaction from civil libertarian Renato Constantino:
“The scope of what comprises ill-gotten wealth must be clearly delineated.
“Does it cover only Marcos and his cronies? One very valid objection to the executive order which created the PCGG is the fact that insofar as sequestration is concerned, the order appears to apply only to ‘Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates, and close associates,’ and may not be applicable to others [including present government officials and their own close associates] who may also have acquired ill-gotten wealth.
“Ill-gotten wealth is simply stealing the people’s money from government coffers. Ill-gotten wealth is money coming out of graft or commissions given to the power holders. How does the PCGG propose to distinguish between what is legitimate acquisition of assets [even if they were concessions by the granting power] from the actual wealth of the possessor?”
The PCGG thought it knew what hidden wealth was, and where it might be found. It jumped into action with relish. It initially sequestered 218 companies with equities worth P10.7 billion in the first 100 days, plus P1.837 billion worth of jewelry, aircraft and motor vehicles. Then it started having trouble when courts insisted on due process while the inquisitive alternative press demanded transparency.
The New York trial of the sensationalized Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations case took all of four months in a cold courtroom with 12 jury members who knew nothing of the lives of the Marcoses, their culture and their dreams.
After President Marcos died on September 28, 1989, the prosecution, when the trial began, attempted to convince Mrs. Marcos to plead guilty to a lesser offense so that she could be convicted and jailed lightly. Perhaps they reckoned that, with President Marcos gone, she would feel forsaken, vulnerable and helpless.
She stood up and told the prosecution:
“No plea bargain! To plead even to a minor malfeasance is to admit guilt, and I know we did not steal. Sacred honor, good name, principles and belief are nonnegotiable. I shall defend myself and this man whose lips are now sealed by death.”
The flash of camera lights blinded her eyes, and contraptions recorded the sadness of her face for the whole world to see. The landscape she had drawn about the world, about people and about herself was no longer the landscape before her.
She continued her narration:
“I saw stone, steel and cemented steps leading to dark corridors and darker rooms where you could not see the sun and the sky. I was shedding tears, but I knew I was not crying for myself but for those who had taken away my landscape, perhaps, because they never had one.
“The judge wore black, the lawyers wore black, the marshals wore black and it looked like I was in a funeral parlor, except that there was no dead body. I could see people watching me as though a drama was being played.
“What made me sadder was the thought that they had taken a life, dissected its parts and unleashed them to the highest bidder, mock it as a specimen of humanity’s vile, laugh at the dreams you have built, put a price tag on the beautiful that you had given to your world and then call you a racketeer and extravagant.
“But can anyone be more extravagant than nature itself? Or how could you be more extravagant than the landscape in your heart?
“After a while, I felt lonely because Ferdinand, the man they accused, that other half of me, could no longer defend himself.
“My suffering caused me to cough blood, and the prosecution offered me a medical severance to spare me, according to them, of further agony.
“I told them again that more than life, President Marcos and I valued honor.
“I felt helpless as I stood up at the opening of the trial. My only guide was the rosary in my hand. I touched the small crucifix in the bead, held on to it firmly and closed my eyes imagining I was on that cross too and told myself: ‘Be brave and courageous, and the truth shall make you free.”
On July 2, 1990, her 61st birthday, the 12-man jury unanimously acquitted her on all counts.
Feeling vindicated, on that day, she walked on bended knees from the portal to the altar of the Saint Patrick Church, thanking God for his quality of justice: No courtroom and no mortal power could ever match.
In this era of “televoting,” “telesurvey” and “telepolling,” people are still wondering why did they do that to her and President Marcos?
There is a litany of reasons. The prosecution witness, Timothy Khan, provided one, a reason fraught with political, social, economic and national security implications because, at that time, the retention of the American military bases in the Philippines was under negotiation.
Khan testified that the suit was used for political leverage: “Mrs. Aquino said, no prosecution, no bases.”
Since 1986 up to the time the Marcoses were exiled to the United States, Mrs. Marcos had been asking what happened to valuable properties and assets belonging to the Republic that were arbitrarily sequestered as “ill-gotten wealth” by agents of the Aquino administration.
The New York office of the Aquino regime put several interesting pieces of arts on the auction block on August 15 and 16, 1986. The sale was held at the Viscount International Hotel in Long Island, New York, through auctioneer Sunrise Galleries. The items were vandalized from the seven-story, 30-room townhouse on 66th Street in Manhattan, New York.
Here are some samples:
A photograph of Mrs. Marcos with Pope John Paul II, listed at $150 to $250, sold for $450;
An oil painting of President Marcos, which was expected to fetch $100 to $150, sold for $400;
A photograph of Mrs. Marcos with President and Mrs. Gerald Ford (priced at $150 to $250);
A photograph of Mrs. Marcos and President Marcos with Mao Tse-Tung (priced at $200 to $300);
A photograph of Mrs. Marcos and President Marcos with Russian dignitaries (priced at $150 to $250);
A photograph of Mrs. Marcos with Lord Mountbatten ($150 to $250);
A rare George III side table, circa 1780, valued at $40,000, sold for $42,500;
A Steinway concert grand piano, valued at $18,000, sold for $26,000;
A George III gilt-wood mirror, circa 1770, valued at $10,000, sold for $35,000;
A pair of George I walnut armchairs, circa 1730, priced at $5,000 to $7,000, sold for $22,000; and
A 4-foot-tall sculptured camel made from seashells, valued at $500 to $700, sold for $2,000.
Why did the Aquino administration conclude that the priceless pictures with Pope John Paul II, Mao Tse-Tung and other dignitaries were “ill-gotten?”
It can be explained that the motive could not only be hatred and vengeance. The Yellows and their inveterate supporters also wanted to take away good memories they cherished and nurtured for the Filipino people. Or maybe they wanted to make the Marcoses scapegoats to hide their greed, graft and plunder.
They sold many more gifts and treasures the Marcoses kept in their private chambers in Malacañang, including 82 Old Masters and 81 boxes of valuables, and those that were on display and had been taken out from the Metropolitan Museum in Manila. They were worth millions of dollars.
Source: A US lawmaker and the Aquino regime spread fake news to destroy the Marcoses, Cecilio T. Arillo, July 23, 2018 to July 30, 2018, Business Mirror