MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Wednesday, August 30, demanded that the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos return everything that they stole from the government.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a staunch Duterte ally, said it isn't enough that the Marcoses would only return part of their ill-gotten wealth.
"Lookout na ng lawyers ng Marcos family. Pero I think sa settlement, 'di naman masyado cheap ang Republic of the Philippines. Kung ano ang kabuuan na ninakaw, ibalik. 'Di naman 'yung pinaambunan ka lang, ayos na," Pimentel told reporters on Wednesday.
(That's the lookout of the lawyers of the Marcos family. But I think when it comes to settlement, the Republic of the Philippines is not too cheap. Everything that was stolen should be returned. It's not like we'll be satisfied with just crumbs.)
If the Marcoses would only make a "donation," Pimentel said the government should welcome it. He, however, said the supposed move should not affect the cases filed against the late dictator's heirs.
"Yes, maging maingat tayo kung with strings attached pero kung donation to government, tanggapin natin," he said. (Yes, we should be careful if there are strings attached, but if the Marcoses are going to make a donation to the government, let's accept it.)
Pimentel's father, former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr, was a human rights lawyer and a staunch critic of Marcos.
The Marcoses supposedly volunteered to return some of their wealth, including a few "gold bars," to help the Duterte administration fund its priority programs. (READ: Recovering Marcos' ill-gotten wealth: After 30 years, what?)
Minority senators questioned the motives of the Marcoses, who are now closely allied with the Duterte administration.
"Tama lang, dapat lang, pera po 'yan ng bayan. Dapat lang na ibalik 'yan pero ang magandang tanong magkano po do'n sa kinuha po nila ang ibabalik sa atin? Dapat po 'yung kabuuan ang ibabalik sa atin," said Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
(It's just right that they return their wealth to us because that's the money of the Filipino people. It really should be returned, but the question is, how much of the money they stole will be returned to us? It should be the entire amount.)
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the family's wealth never belonged to them in the first place.
"Saying that they are willing to return portions of the ill-gotten wealth means that they have it. And the wealth never belonged to them to begin with. Generations of Filipinos who suffered deserve more than crumbs from the table," Hontiveros said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan also said the intentions of the Marcoses should not be taken at face value. Aside from returning the ill-gotten wealth, the Marcoses should also apologize for atrocities committed during Martial Law, he said.
"Walang dahilan na maniwala tayo sa sinseridad ng mga pamilyang Marcos. Isauli nila ang nakaw na yaman at humingi ng kapatawaran sa mga kasalanan ng diktadura at do'n lang natin paniniwalaan ang kanilang sinseridad," Pangilinan said.
Hontiveros added: "Without justice and accountability, without acknowledgement by the Marcoses of their colossal abuses against the people, any attempt to return mere portions of the ill-gotten wealth they amassed during Martial Law is an attempt to buy false credibility and further stain our history."
In his speech, Duterte also said the ousted president had kept the wealth because he was just protecting it for the economy. (READ: Search for Marcos' wealth: Compromising with cronies)
But Aquino questioned why the dictator held on to it for a long time.
"Oo, tinago lang nila pero dekada nilang tinago. Kung totoo pong para sa kapakanan ng bayan, dapat matagal na pong binalik 'yun. Obvious naman po at tanggap na po ng buong mundo na ninakaw po ang perang 'yan. Dapat lang ibalik talaga 'yan," said Aquino, nephew of slain democracy icon and former senator Benigno Aquino Jr.
(Yes, they kept the wealth, but they kept it for decades. If they really held on to it for the benefit of the country, then they should've returned it a long time ago. It's obvious and the whole world knows that their money is ill-gotten. They really should return it.)
Duterte earlier called for the abolition of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the main agency tasked to recover the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth.
For Hontiveros, this and the Marcoses' move raise "suspicion" on the plans of the Duterte administration.
She called on the President to make public the full details of the proposal presented by the emissary of the Marcoses.
"The government must not exchange the people's pursuit of justice for all the victims of Martial Law for a few gold bars, like 30 pieces of silver," she said. – Rappler.com