Malacañang awaiting Congress nod to negotiate return of Marcos wealth

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is waiting for Congress' approval before beginning talks with the Marcoses for the return of some wealth, including "gold bars," to the government, said Malacañang.

During a press conference on Monday, September 4, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the ball is now in the legislative branch's court.

"We therefore urge the Congress to authorize the President to proceed with negotiations," said Abella. (READ: 'Is Duterte the Marcos spokesman?' – lawmakers)

Two days before, Duterte said in a media interview in Davao City that authorization is needed since "that is money to be recovered by the Government of the Philippines and that was the offer."

Abella, on Monday, said Congress is needed to "set parameters, taking into account concerns raised by critics and the citizenry." (READ: Senators to Marcoses: Return all ill-gotten wealth, not just 'crumbs')

Asked why Duterte cannot pursue negotiations on his own, Abella said, "What we can say is that the President cannot simply be acting on his own, the legislative has to come into play in this case."

Duterte previously voiced his preference to assign someone "not identified with anybody" to handle the negotiations with the Marcos family.

Abella could not say what involvement the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) would have in the talks despite its mandate to recover the ill-gotten wealth amassed during the Marcos regime. (READ: Recovering Marcos' ill-gotten wealth: After 30 years, what?)

Holding Marcoses accountable

Malacañang is not taking a "stand" on whether or not the wealth to be returned by the Marcoses is stolen or ill-gotten money.

"The President has said he will accept however they explain it so we're not taking a stand regarding it," said Abella.

Duterte earlier said he "accepts" the explanation of the Marcoses that their patriarch, late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, was only "hiding" the wealth in order to "protect the economy."

"He is speaking like a lawyer and accepts what the other party is saying," said Abella. (READ: Search for Marcos' wealth: Compromising with cronies)

However, Duterte's spokesman said he is "not discounting" the possibility that charges will be filed against the Marcoses for keeping the wealth.

Duterte said on Saturday, September 2, that he would leave the decision to file charges to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. (READ: We trust Duterte will end decades of cases – Imee Marcos– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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