House to study move granting Duterte talks with Marcos over ‘ill-gotten’ wealth

The House of Representatives is going to study the request to grant Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to start negotiations with the Marcos family on their offer to return their alleged ill-gotten wealth to the government.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday, September 5, said that Congress should first into the specifics of the planned proposal of the family of late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Last week, Duterte said that the Marcoses expressed willingness to return a portion of their wealth—including few gold bars—which was accumulated during the two-decade rule of the late dictator.

Alvarez, however, expressed doubt on the sincerity of the Marcoses to return their ill-gotten wealth to the national government.

“Yun namang proposed negotiation doon sa ano ito—Marcos loot? Loot, kasi nakaw di ba? Matagal nang pinag-uusapan. Tignan muna natin ano ba, seryoso ba kayo o hindi? (Regarding the proposed negotiation with the Marcos loot? Loot, because it’s ill-gotten, right? It has been being discussed for so long now. Let’s look at it first, are they serious or not?),” the speaker said in a press briefing.

He added that it is also a “good question” whether or not Congress has the power to authorize the president to negotiate with the Marcoses on the retrieval of plundered cash and assets.

“Ngayon lang kasi nangyari yan so mabuti na yung tignan nating yung legalities (This is the first time this happened that is why we still need to check the legalities),” Alvarez said.

A day before, Malacañang urged Congress to grant Duterte authority to start the negotiation with the Marcoses.

“The president has promised the negotiation on the Marcoses’ wealth would be done legally, with full accounting to the people as well as authority from Congress,” Duterte’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

He went on to say, “We urge Congress to authorize the president to proceed with the negotiation and set parameters, taking into account the concerns raised by critics and the citizenry. It would be best if we all work together for final justice, closure and national reconciliation.”

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the president does not need approval from Congress for the Marcos wealth talks, citing the creation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) during the administration of the late President Cory Aquino.

The PCGG, Lagman noted,  is “charged with the task of assisting the president” in “the recovery of all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad.”

“The president even on his own accord can negotiate the surrender of the ill-gotten hoard in the same manner that he can negotiate for the surrender of a high-profile suspected criminal without any act of the Congress,” the lawmaker said.

He, however, urged Duterte to proceed with the negotiation with “transparency, accountability and no conditionality.”

Lagman also expressed uncertainty on the reported proposal, saying, “Why involve the Congress in a negotiation where the Marcos heirs are at best ambivalent and which may not even prosper beyond propaganda?”

“I don’t think Congress should do that, granting him the authority to exchange the criminal responsibility of the Marcoses for a few pieces of gold bars,” he added.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, September 3, Duterte clarified that he has not made any deal yet with the Marcoses.

“It was like this: The Marcoses are ready to return [assets]. I said I accepted the explanation because there’s no other explanation. I do not know anything, I cannot debate with them so I accepted the explanation. It’s about time that this thing is finally settled,” the president explained.

But in making the offer, Duterte said that the Marcoses were not admitting that the wealth they are willing to return was stolen.

“[Imee] is not ready to announce that it had been stolen. But she said whatever was under suspicion should be discussed and that I accepted,” he said, referring to the late dictator’s eldest daughter and Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos.

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