The Marcoses’ obsession with power

>> Sunday, October 8, 2017

Perry Diaz       

If forty-five years after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law and 31 years after he was deposed by the People Power Revolution of 1986, you’d think that his heirs would stay out of politics and lead a quiet life?  You’re wrong.  The Marcoses are nowhere living their lives in the quietude of obscurity; they’re basking in the limelight of power. 
Indeed, during a forum commemorating her father’s 100th birthday in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Governor Imee Marcos reminded the attendees of a statement made by her father after they were ousted from power, that “history was not done yet” with her family.  She was referring to her late father’s comment when they landed at the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.  “We were all in tears and everyone said, ‘The end is nigh, it is finished, we are dead and doomed,’” Imee said.  “My father said, ‘No, children. To my family and to everyone, history is not done with me yet.’”
It is interesting to note that when the Marcoses fled into exile in February 1986, they were prepared for it.  When they landed at Hickam, the official U.S. customs record took up around 23 pages. In the two C-141 transport planes that took them away, they had packed: 23 wooden crates; 12 suitcases and bags, and various boxes, the contents of which included enough clothing to fill 67 racks; 413 pieces of jewelry, including 70 pairs of jewel-studded cufflinks; an ivory statue of the infant Jesus, adorned with a silver mantle and a diamond necklace; 24 gold bricks, inscribed “To my husband on our 24th anniversary”; and more than 27 million Philippine pesos in freshly-printed notes. The total value was $15 million.  [Source:]
Marcos died in 1989 in Honolulu.  In 1993, his remains were flown back to the Philippines when then President Fidel Ramos allowed the Marcos family to return provided that they bury the Marcos patriarch in Ilocos Norte.  The family complied with the condition and the remains were entombed in a crypt in Batac.
           The Marcos family incessantly lobbied to have Marcos’ remains buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – Heroes’ Cemetery – in Taguig City.  But every president opposed it until last November when President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the burial of the dictator with full military honors despite a public outrage.
Spectacular comeback
In a span of three decades, the Marcoses made their way back to power.  The matriarch, Imelda Marcos, now 88, currently represents her late husband’s second congressional district in Ilocos Norte.  The only son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., was elected Ilocos Norte governor in 1998 and representative of the second district in 2007.  In 2010, he ran and won a senate seat.  
               Termed out in 2016, he ran for vice president but lost to Leni Robredo by 263,000 votes.  This prompted him to file for a recount, which is now pending before the Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal PET).
If Bongbong gets the vote of at least eight Supreme Court justices, he’d serve the remainder of Robredo’s term until 2022 when the next presidential election is held.  At that time, Bongbong would be an “incumbent” vice president and would therefore benefit from the power of incumbency, which would allow him to use government resources in his campaign. 
In a sense Bongbong is just eight votes away from dislodging Robredo from the vice presidency.  But his biggest advantage is that President Duterte is supporting him.  With Duterte’s appointment of four new Supreme Court justices, he has achieved in creating a bloc of magistrates in the High Court who are expected to support his agenda in a manner no other president before had enjoyed.   
             And with the retirement of eight of the remaining 11 justices during his term, Duterte would stack up the bench with 12 justices of his own choice. Should the PET come to a vote before Duterte’s term ends on June 30, 2022, the question that comes to fore is: Could Bongbong secure the votes of at least eight of Duterte’s High Court appointees?  Well, this is just like asking, “Does the dog bark?”
A few gold bars
Bongbong must then have every reason to think that power is within his grasp.  His political benefactor Duterte announced in early September that the Marcos family was willing to return a “few gold bars” they had hidden away. The Marcos family has been accused of stashing billions in secret bank accounts abroad.  
Duterte said a spokesman for the Marcoses had told him that the family was willing to “open everything” and to return the stolen wealth accumulated during the Marcos' decades as president.  “They are ready to bring it back… including a few gold bars.”  But how many is a “few gold bars”?  However, it is a fact – and they admitted it – that the entire cache of gold bars in the Philippines’ central bank depository was spirited away.  Nothing was left.
Although it was not acknowledged by the Marcos family, the offer to return part of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth and a “few gold bars” begs the question: Why is the Marcos family returning part of the estimated $10-billion loot that Marcos is accused of embezzling from state coffers during his 21-year rule?  To date, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was created by the 1987 Constitution, recovered some $3 billion in the last 30 years.
Presidential ambitions
The Marcoses’ offer to return billions in loot has stirred speculation as to what their intention is.  But for them to return the stolen wealth, they must be up to something worth more than what they stole.  And that is nothing less than the presidency of the Philippines.  Stepping up to the vice presidency would make it a lot easier for Bongbong to beat any other contender, including Robredo.  However, Duterte dispelled rumors that the offer was part of an “operation” to aid Bongbong in his alleged plan to run for president.  
           But first, Bongbong has to clear the way of any impediment – legal or otherwise -- that could torpedo his presidential ambitions.  It did not then come as a surprise that several lawmakers and martial law victims criticized the offer, saying that the Marcos family should return their ill-gotten wealth, disclose any condition for its return, and hold them accountable.
Vice President Robredo also believed that the Marcos family could only be offering to return part of the loot to dodge the “legal repercussions” of stealing from the country.  She rejected the notion to grant the late dictator’s heirs immunity without them admitting to their crimes.  However, Bongbong’s supporters insist that immunity must be granted as a condition for returning the stolen wealth. 
And this brings to mind the question: Is the presidency worth more than the billions that Marcos had stolen and stashed in secret bank accounts?  While one can say that the ill-gotten wealth has a finite value, the value of the presidency is infinite.  Immense power comes with the presidency and it opens a lot of doors to opportunities of immeasurable wealth.  In other words, the Marcos family could regain the ill-gotten wealth and a lot more than what they would have returned to “secure” the presidency.
At the end of the day, one wonders if what the late dictator had in mind when he told his family who were then languishing in exile in Hawaii, “To my family and to everyone, history is not done with me yet.”
This reminds me of the Shakespearean novel “Macbeth,” which says, “The protagonist Macbeth is caught in a down spiral induced by his ambition, which in the end, was the cause of his tragic end. Macbeth, once a great hero falls victim of his ambition for power. Although the protagonist initially tries to resist his human urge, he in the end committed crime against his country, his friends, and sadly himself.”
       Could it be then that the late dictator’s obsession with power is passed on to his son, Bongbong? (


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