The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.
Fooled me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Right now, there is the very real possibility that Bongbong Marcos, the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, might secure the vice-presidential slot in the Philippines, putting him a proverbial heartbeat away from the position his father/parents held on illegitimately for an extra 14 years. This makes them like bad weeds, refusing to fade from the scene and die a natural death.
So let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment: What if Ferdinand Jr., assumes the top or deputy position in the old sod? What will he do?
1. Rewrite History
As he/they are already doing. It seems by their actions, BBM and his allies are poised to rewrite history. As is often said, the victors get to write the dominant version of history.
BBM is already on a path to minimizing the crimes and cruelties of his family’s regime. He is in total denial mode on the civil rights abuses his father’s regime committed and the stolen wealth the whole, outside world knows about. The loyalists are re-fabricating history as if 1972-1986 never happened and are steadfastly whitewashing the well-documented assault on human and civil rights that his parents’ regime inflicted on a defenseless and demoralized people. He adds insult to injury—and there is an audience gullible enough to lap up all the lies and distortions.
2. Having the Old Man’s Body Interred at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani
It has been another age-old delusion of the surviving Marcos family that their patriarch, just because he was an overstaying president, should join other legitimate heroes at the hallowed Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Past administrations and outraged parties have successfully blocked this in the past. But due to the family’s overwhelming desire to be legitimized by history, they have tried to move and heaven and hell, to finally inter Ferdinand Sr., remains there in Fort Bonifiacio.
One can be sure if Bongbong seats himself as vice-president, and with the help of a friendly president (like Duterte, Binay or Poe), then the way will be paved for this egregious move to happen. The families of other personages buried there had threatened in the past, to move their loved one’s remains out of the hallowed grounds should the possibility of FM’s remains joining them. The funeral industry might be quite busy in the coming months.
And then Bongbong will move on to other pressing things, like
3. Shut Down the PCGG and Similar Efforts of Loot Recovery
Part of that whitewashing/“resurrection” of the Marcos name would also probably include disbanding the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), an agency created shortly after their ouster in 1986 in order to recover and confiscate over $10 billion worth of assets the Marcoses and their associates swiped and squirreled away.
At the end of 2015, the PCGG had supposedly recovered some 65 percent of the known ill-gotten Marcos gains. And there are a lot more assets in the pipeline to be recovered. Among those would be the fabulous jewelry collection Imelda assembled. (“Assembled” because she does not own the pieces since they were acquired with the Filipino people’s money.)
4. Rush to Monetize Portable Assets, Like His Mother’s “Jewelry” …
Although the PCGG has denied the possible election of Marcos, Jr. as an impetus in accelerating efforts to monetize these assets, it’s certainly not inconceivable that the moves are interlinked.
Per a conservative November 2015 evaluation, Imelda’s jewels are supposedly worth some $21 million cumulatively. From Sotheby’s and Christie’s vantage point, this would be a small sum, but it would still be about ₱1 billion pesos returned to the Pilipino people.
(By comparison, Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry, which numbered about 270 lots, brought in some $137 million at the auction in December 2011. The Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry attracted some $53.5 million in April 1987 for some 214 pieces. The proceeds of the Duchess of Windsor’s auction went to the Pasteur Institute in Paris per the stipulations of the Windsor estate. Would the Marcoses ever be so generous and altruistic? Don’t bet your horses on it.)
With such a massive collection of over 700 pieces, it will take a few months for the chosen auction house to produce an excellent catalogue, and once in its possession, what would be the point of returning the jewels back to the Philippines? The jewels would probably stay in custody of Sotheby’s/Christie’s until the actual auction dates. Can either of the auction houses put down a layer of protection from any Marcos lawsuits, so that the sale could proceed? This is not a far-fetched scenario for the wily Marcoses to undertake.
One encouraging note about having the sale in Geneva or the U.S. is that both governments are wise to the obstructive ways the Marcoses have employed over the last three decades. Lately, there has been unprecedented cooperation between the US Department of Justice and Switzerland, as Bern has been cracking down on one of the most sacrosanct institutions that have called Zurich home, FIFA, or Big Soccer. With the Justice Departments of the two nations working in concert, Switzerland arrested many accused foreign FIFA officials and fulfilled US extradition efforts. I don’t think the Marcoses will continue to play their little games of hide-and-seek with either Washington or Bern even though they will try their darnedest.
Will the Economy Cool Down with a BBM Victory?
Whoever wins the presidency will definitely have an impact on the Philippines’ currently “hot” economy, depending of course on the economic policies of the new dispensation. However, a Marcos Jr. victory could have a negative effect on the Philippines’ international stature and investor confidence, putting a drag on economic growth.
The Marcoses rely on the fact that many Filipinos are ignorant, forgiving, have very short memories or have their price. Manufactured scenarios and cooked books would probably be back in fashion – since they got away with it the first time around, and they’re certainly going for broke once again.
Outstanding U.S. Judgments Against the Marcoses
What Marcos supporters so quickly forget or try to whitewash is that there are 4 U.S. awards judgments against the Marcoses, more specifically Imelda, Ferdinand, Jr. and Imee--since they are surviving and politically active heirs of the old man:
1. In February 1994, a Hawaii jury found the Marcoses guilty in a class-action lawsuit and awards $1.2 billion in exemplary damages to the plaintiffs/martial law victims. This was followed by a
2. January 1995 award for another $766 million in compensatory damages. (On February 3, 1995, the Hawaii court entered a combined judgment of $1.9 billion against the Marcos estate.)
So far, the above two judgments are for “civil” cases – so no jail time is involved. Then . . .
3. Five years later, in February 28, 2000, the state of Hawaii again found in favor of the estate of Rogelio Roxas and the Golden Buddha Corporation, awarding another $20 million ($13,275,848.37 for the replacement value of the Buddha, the 17 gold bars and other items taken from the Roxas household in 1971, with all interest accrued; plus another $6 million for the violation of plaintiffs’ civil rights). And
4. In January 2011, after 17 years of the Marcoses appealing the earlier verdicts (all of which were rejected), making Philippine courts try to void the Hawaii court judgments, and all but making no effort to even meet some of the judgments, the Hawaii courts again slapped Imelda, Bongbong and Imee with another $353.6 million fine in contempt of court.
It was the largest award for a contempt case ever on record, for ignoring the court’s earlier judgments and the court knowing that the Marcoses have the wherewithal to pay up. But the Marcoses failed in all their appeals of the above US judgments.
The last judgment of 2011, specifically for violating US court order(s) not to dissipate their assets, elevated the classification of the judgments against the Marcoses from “civil” status to “criminal,” thus making the defendants culpable of jail sentences. And which is why since that time, the Marcos maître et fils have not traveled to the USA since they could be quickly apprehended and thrown into the clinker once they set foot on U.S. soil.
Also, Imelda Marcos Never Repaid the $5 million Doris Duke Lent Her
5. In addition, on April 6, 2011, the District Court in Hawaii extended the Doris Duke Charitable Trust’s claims to be repaid the $5 million that Doris Duke had personally lent Imelda in May 1990 so she could post bail in her New York summons and not have to spend any time in a New York jail. Duke advanced that sum on the condition that Imelda repay her in the future. Imelda never did. So in April 2011, the Hawaii court again extended the effectivity of her Foundation’s claims for another ten years, to 2021.
The judgment for the Doris Duke Charitable Trust’s case in part reads, “. . . awarded . . . $5,000,000.00 in damages, plus interest in Case 1:00-cv-00177-HG -RLP Document 25 Filed 04/06/11 Page 1 of 5 PageID #: 13 2 the amount of $4,745,342.52 (for interest incurred from May 6, 1990 to November 20, 2000) and $6,982.13 for attorneys’ fees and costs, for a total award of $9,752,324.65, plus post-judgment interest as set forth under 28 U.S.C. § 1961. (Id.)”
So Imelda never repaid that $5 million and seems to have no intention of repaying that sum. By her and her attorneys’ actions, she will simply wait out the time, and good luck to the DD Trust on ever collecting on the goodwill advanced by a friend who was helping “a friend in need.” (Pa-kapalan na lang. Why honor the debt when the rich “friend” is already dead,and she certainly won’t be needing the amount in the after-life?)
So, cumulatively, the Marcoses owe the US (Hawaii) courts and, by extension, their victims, a sum of at least $2.284 billion (before adding in interest). Will they ever pay that? When hell freezes over. It will never be paid because (1) it would be tantamount to admitting they still hold that many assets of ill-gotten wealth; and (2) that’s about half of what they still secretly hold; so over their dead bodies would they willingly comply with those judgments.
But none of these judgments are also going away any time soon. Thus, the three active Marcos heirs are scofflaws in the eyes of the US law, having deliberately ignored the US courts’ judgments, and with the courts knowing they have the wherewithal to satisfy even part of the awards. As such, a Bongbong vice-presidency will probably put a great strain on relations with the United States.
What Happens If a VP BBM Is Deputized to Appear at the UN in New York?
I posed this question to the U.S. State Department. While they would not discuss specific visa applications of actual persons, let alone a hypothetical case, they pointed me to a possible similar case and how the US handled that—the application of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan who came to attend the 2015 General Assembly Session at the UN in New York.
Bashir is a wanted criminal convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which takes care of war criminals. Bashir stands accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC. (Strangely enough, the US is not a member of the International Criminal Court.)
Here is the transcript of how the U.S. State Department dealt with the issue of Bashir being allowed to get a visa to enter the United States.
Their cases, however, differ. BBM is charged with contempt of court and not fulfilling the judgments in civil cases; although the gravity of his diffidence to the court rulings, has elevated his omissions to a “criminal” level. Bashir is accused of war and humanitarian crimes. But the US, as host nation to the UN, must abide by its international obligations.
What the US cannot prevent will be massive demonstrations BBM and his party will most probably face in New York City or wherever else he may travel under diplomatic cover. His attending any other social function outside of the cordone sanitaire will be fraught with uncomfortable confrontations, even if he and his team employ the “hakot” maneuvers his father did when the old scoundrel visited Washington, DC in an official capacity in August 1982. But it will certainly rend expat Filipino communities again.
Despite its being a “vaunted fortress,” the US borders are actually quite porous (giving credence to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s hyperbolic boast that he will build a wall on the US’ southern border with Mexico.)
As for Imelda’s late confidante, Glecy Tantoco (the grande dame of Rustan’s), I looked hard for words to the effect that somehow said “she settled the tax evasion charges filed against her by New York State.” I couldn’t find any, so indeed it was a wonder how she managed to sneak into the US for further treatment in 1994 despite an outstanding warrant for her arrest by New York state in connection with racketeering and tax-evasion charges levied against her (in Imelda’s racketeering case of 1990-91).
Another known felon, hotel queen Leona Helmsley, went to jail in Connecticut in 1992 for precisely the same tax evasion charges that Tantoco faced. However, Glecy was sick, declared residency in New Jersey and so evaded arrest by the state of New York. With their money, I suspect that Mrs. Tantoco snuck into Manhattan for treatment, or paid extra to have specialists do house calls in New Jersey. And to avoid the taint of a “New York warrant,” Glecy’s death certificate in 1994 was signed by a medical examiner in New Jersey.
By way of this article, I want to make a correction/addendum to the first run of my book. When the book first went to press in February, it had stated that since the surviving Marcoses’ return to the Philippines in 1991 and the issuance of the Hawaii court decisions from February 1994 to January 2011, the Marcoses had not returned to the US. That was incorrect.
It turns out that in December 1995, Imelda had a made a few days’ visit to Los Angeles for some eye treatment. Only the first two court judgments seeking $1.9 billion in damages were in effect at that time and no arrest was yet being pursued. Of course, she also conveniently bypassed Hawaii.
In February 2005, Bongbong returned to Hawaii on some official business (as governor of Ilocos Norte), and agreed to appear at the court of Judge Manuel Real. This was the same District Court judge who presided over the judgments of February 1994, January 1995 and February 2000 (see above).
First, BBM declared, under oath, to the court that he was “not aware where the rest of the family’s ill-gotten assets were.” He then went through the motions of rendering “cooperation with the Court” and being contrite—all of which Judge Real bought, or at least gave Junior the benefit of the doubt. BBM was let off with the usual admonition that he could not speak publicly about it while it was an on-going matter. So it was a mere cuff on the wrist. Meanwhile, his lawyers’ actions back in the Philippines, filing appeals and counter-suits in Manila to neutralize the judgments of Hawaii, belied Marcos’ deportment at Judge Real’s court.
Finally, on October 24, 2012, the three-judge panel of the US’ 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the earlier ruling of January 2011 that charged Imelda and Bongbong with continuing to disobey the court’s earlier orders by hiding and dissipating the stolen wealth from the Filipino people and having inflicted torture and murder of those who spoke out against their regime. Seventeen years after the first judgment of 1994, the Marcoses still had to make a good faith attempt to even satisfy part of the Hawaii court’s judgment by 2001. This was the last judgment with an additional $353.6 million, at $100,000/day, in contempt of court.
Though Judge Real is 93 as of this writing, those are federal court rulings that make a warrant for the Marcoses’ arrest applicable should they step anywhere in the US, bypassing Hawaii. Also, notice that Bongbong sent his two sons to Oxford in the UK, rather than Harvard or Yale or Wharton in the U.S. Why is that? Because Papa entering the US with a regular Philippine passport would be a touch-and-go situation.
Unlike in the Philippines where they can throw their weight around and call in past chits, the Marcoses aren’t exactly darlings of the American jurisprudence system. As the years go by and they become more obstinate, and more of their crimes and trespasses become known and magnified many times over, they don’t have many friends left to run to in American courts.
Who can order the arrest of foreign scofflaws when they set foot in the US?
It would be the Attorney General’s (currently, Loretta Lynch) office and/or the Department of Justice. Like the recent arrests of FIFA officials in Zurich, which case poses no direct threat to the security of the United States but merely the consequence of violations of US banking laws, the Justice Department swooped down on the officials of international football to make an example of them.
Because Bongbong and Imelda presently pose no direct threat to the security of the United States, and they are really second-tier perpetrators in the hierarchy of Ferdinand Marcos’ actions, they are somewhat low on the Justice Department’s list. But should either make waves of strong anti-Americanism and/or incur the ire of someone who has the Attorney-General’s ear, an order to pick them up if they set foot on US soil could happen overnight.
Unfortunately, there is no more debtor’s prison in the US, and all the known Marcos properties in the US have already been confiscated. So, other than the missing paintings (if they are still on US soil), there are really no more Marcos assets in the US that can be attached. So Bongbong and Imelda will never pay up and satisfy those Hawaii court judgments.
With just a few weeks to go before the May 9 Philippine elections, who the new president will be is anybody’s guess. But with at least five major candidates/parties running, the winners for sure will rule by minority mandate, not the overwhelming majority one would like to see. Of course, if BBM wins he will have to interface with US leaders. The Democrats have never been crazy about the Marcoses, so should Mrs. Clinton become U.S. president 2016-24, a vice president Bongbong or even President Bongbong won’t be high on the list of a Clinton II White House guests, let alone being asked to address a joint session of the US Congress.
Bigger Question: A Nation of Dunces?
What are other possible consequences of a BBM win? Will there be civil disobedience? Will the Church be even more militant this time? Will some foreign service offices of the country revolt against representing a Marcos II government? Will an EDSA III happen? All are very possible, since a great number of Filipinos don’t seem to learn from lessons of the past.
But the bigger question Filipinos must really ask themselves on May 9 is what kind of a nation sends someone like Bongbong Marcos to even higher public office? A morally bankrupt nation of naïve and gullible voters who have set themselves up for more lies and evasions of the truth, that’s what. People have been sold a bill of goods once before; will they continue to buy more of the same toxic, made-in-Batac fairy tales? Seen from across the Pacific, there is more blind loyalty, sheer bullheadedness and self-delusion. It doesn’t seem like a people who have learned and learned deeply from a bitter past.
Myles A. Garcia is a retired San Francisco Bay Area-based writer. Myles just won a 2015 Plaridel Award (Best Sports Story) for “Before Elorde, Before Pacquiao, There Was Luis Logan,” here on Positively Filipino (November 17, 2014). He is also a member of the ISOH (International Society of Olympic Historians) and has written for the ISOH Journal.
More articles from Myles A. Garcia