FROM THE BARREL OF MY PEN
By Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio
PLUNDERERS MUST BE PUNISHED
The return of a portion Marcos ill-gotten wealth stolen from the Filipino people due to a Philippine government agency's incompetence gives a bad signal to any Filipino adventurer that it pays to plunder this hapless country in the Pacific aptly called the Philippine Islands. Yamashita, the Japanese general who plundered the Pacific and Southeast Asian region during the second world war, must be turning in his grave in full envy of the Marcos family's success in the art of stealing corruptible treasures and keeping them.
During the early 80s while anti-Marcos politicians roamed the United States seeking political support from Filipino Americans against the Marcos dictatorship, I asked a certain anti-Marcos activist politician named Jovito Salonga in a forum in downtown Manhattan what he would do with the Marcos stolen wealth upon the dictator's fall from power. His reply was “sequestration” of the loot. True to his word, that's what he did when he was given that responsibility by the Aquino government that took over as a result of a “people power” revolution in 1986.
So Salonga became the first official “sequestrator” of Marcos stolen wealth as head of an agency called Philippine Commission on Good Government(PCGG) by virtue of the first executive order issued by the Aquino provisional government. The weakness of his role was his inability or lack of authority to prosecute and punish the thieves and plunderers. So when his fellow “people power” revolutionaries stormed Malacanang Palace after the escape to Hawaii by the Marcoses and looted the looters' boxes of precious jewelry left behind, he must have probably looked the other way. Or perhaps as a brilliant lawyer, he realized that his legal power to sequestrate was limited only to Marcos' loot but not that of his fellow revolutionaries who, according to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, were known as the “Yellow Ladies” of Cory Aquino, the widow of the assassinated anti-Marcos politician Ninoy who became president after Marcos.
As an avid reader of the Holy Bible, Salonga knows the story of the Israelites who were punished by God for touching the forbidden spoils of war left by the defeated infidels after the invasion of Canaan, the Promised Land. He knew what was going on with the booty being touched by his friends and the infidels remaining unpunished. Perhaps he could not accept it for he finally quit the PCGG after serving for one year and run for the Senate instead.
Instead of punishing the infidels and the plunderers as God commanded in the Old Testament, the following Philippine governments of Ramos and Estrada adopted a policy of compromises with the looters such as dividing the loot between the government and the thieves as much as offering them 25 % of approximately 86 billion pesos worth of assets and bank accounts recovered by PCGG. And the worst that happened with this current Arroyo administration was the infamous evening waltz between Imelda Marcos, widow of the plundering dictator Ferdinand and a certain PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede newly appointed by Gloria Arroyo caught on television sometime ago. The devastating outcome of Abcede's waltzing with the devil, as far as the Filipino people are concerned, was an offer of to dismiss all civil and criminal cases against Imelda and the Marcos cronies and the lifting of sequestration orders of several stolen properties that belong to the poor people.
Ironically, Jovito Salonga, the first conqueror and sequestrator of Marcos stolen wealth, recently could only beg the Arroyo administration not to lift the sequestration orders he initiated. As he prophetically said in his book, Presidential Plunder: the Quest for the Marcos Ill-gotten Wealth(2000),
“I appealed to the Commissioners with these words: Let us not betray our people's faith in us. For if we do, a dictator will come again some day, in the name of national security and stability and do what Marcos did, since after all, Marcos and his associates here and abroad shall have demonstrated for all the world to see that crime pays.”
Significantly, some Marcos associates whose ill-gotten wealth were targeted by Salonga in 1986 for sequestration now are identified as Arroyo allies and some of them landed in FORTUNE Magazine's List of 40 Richest Filipinos. Now, can we say that there's still hope to save the Philippines from destruction or self-destruction? I believe so, as long as there are still a few good Filipinos fighting for justice, peace, and prosperity in that country. And the time will come soon when the plunderers will be punished for a truly reborn Philippines.