Exclusive: Government to intensify hunt for Marcos' ill-gotten wealth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), an agency formed to recover Marcos' ill-gotten wealth, hopes to recover more loot through the Marcoses' pending court cases.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines Thursday, PCGG Acting Chairman Reynold Munsayac said there are 282 pending cases in relation to an estimated $10 billion (roughly ₱500 billion) that the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family allegedly stole from government coffers during his two-decade regime.

"We hope that will be able to recover more ill-gotten wealth out of these cases," Munsayac said. 

The PCGG is "very determined to ensure that all of these ill-gotten wealth will be brought back to the funds of the government," Munsayac said.

The search for Marcos' stolen wealth has so far yielded ₱170 billion in jewelry, paintings, real estate properties, company assets, and cash, the PCGG says.  

President Rodrigo Duterte early Thursday said he wants to expand the extent of the agency's powers.

"I want it broadened and with more power," Duterte said upon returning to the country after attending the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru.

Although the PCGG has yet to receive orders, Munsayac said the President can assign graft and corruption cases for the PCGG to investigate, according to the agency's mandate.

 

Charges vs. the Marcoses

After a people power revolt ousted Marcos in 1986, succeeding governments sued the dictator, his family, and cronies, for allegedly siphoning off billions of dollars from the government.

The Marcoses have faced hundreds of cases, none of which has been successful in incarcerating anyone from the Marcos family.

The Sandiganbayan convicted former First Lady Imelda Marcos of graft in 1993. But the Supreme Court overturned the anti-graft court's decision in 2003, saving her from a 12-year prison sentence.

Early this year, the Sandiganbayan ordered Marcos cronies to turn over to the government half a billion pesos worth of properties, including parcels of land in Tagaytay City, and real estate properties in Rizal and Batangas.

Link: Timeline: Jewels, properties, and billions of Marcos ill-gotten wealth

How much did the Marcoses really steal?

Despite dismissed and acquitted cases in favor of the Marcoses, Alan Robles, a veteran journalist who has extensively researched information on the Marcos regime and reported about its aftermath, said the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth exists — as evidenced by the PCGG's recovery of some P170 billion. 

Robles told CNN Philippines no one knows how much the Marcoses actually stole, the $10 billion was just a rough estimate.

"When Marcos came in to power, the Philippine foreign debt was $1 billion. When he was overthrown, the Philippines' foreign debt was $28 billion. The Philippines hardly saw any of that money put to use for Filipinos, so we can presume how many billions of dollars the Marcoses stole out of that debt," Robles said.

He said the Philippines badly needs to recover the loot.

An online exhibit published by the PCGG showed that just a few pieces of jewelry hoarded by the Marcoses are luxurious enough to finance the four-year college education of about 2,000 students, provide electricity to over 2,000 households and fund for the treatment of over 12,000 tuberculosis patients — to name a few.

Look: Marcoses' 'ill-gotten' jewels and how these could have helped Filipinos

When the son, former Sen. Bongbong Marcos, ran for vice president in the 2016 elections, rivals hit him for his father’s human rights abuses and his family’s ill-gotten wealth. During the vice presidential debate in April, Vice President Leni Robredo asked him to return the money his family allegedly stole from the people.

But Marcos said “I cannot give what I do not have,” denying he has any ill-gotten wealth.

Related: Marcos says he can’t apologize, give compensation to Martial Law victims

Related: Marcos on Martial Law: It was 30 years ago

PCGG under threat?

Robles, however, expressed concern over the current state of the PCGG under the Duterte administration.

Because Duterte allowed the late president's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Robles expressed doubts this administration would really put the Marcoses to task.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this administration disbands the PCGG and returns the Marcos loot and maybe apologizes to the Marcoses. Who knows, anything is possible," Robles said.

Four months into the Duterte government, Munsayac remains the lone appointee to the PCGG.

Robles said this is not surprising, because previous governments were not as interested in recovering the loot as former President Corazon Aquino was.

She created the PCGG via an executive order immediately after she assumed power in 1986, specifically to retrieve the stolen wealth.

The PCGG has had its share of corrupt bureaucrats, as well.

The agency has dismissed erring volunteers and personnel for their "misdeeds," according to PCGG's milestone report in February 2016.

A former high-ranking PCGG official, who requested anonymity, confirms there have been "bantay-salakay" officials in the PCGG — wolves in sheep's clothing.

CNN Philippines' JC Gotinga contributed to this report.