Marcos family's offer to return wealth: Is it an admission wealth was ill-gotten?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — Several lawmakers and a former human rights chief challenged on Wednesday the offer of the Marcos family to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, but a few senators and some netizens welcomed the move.

The offer by the Marcos family to turn over money and property amassed illegally is an admission of guilt, said former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Etta Rosales.

"Kung hindi naman ill-gotten wealth, bakit nila ibabalik? [If it's not ill-gotten wealth, why would they return it? ] Why are the Marcoses going to return to the government money that rightly belongs to them? They will only return money that they have stolen," she told CNN Philippines' "Balitaan." Rosales is one of thousands of human rights victims under the martial law regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. echoed Rosales' sentiment.

"Would this also mean that they are willing to admit that they had indeed amass ill-gotten wealth and are willing to subject themselves to the justice mill for crimes against the people?" he said in a statement.

The reactions followed remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday that the Marcos family, through a spokesperson, offered to "return" a small amount of the wealth, including "a few gold bars." He added that former President Marcos, was only "protecting the economy."

READ: Marcoses offer to turn over part of their wealth, Duterte says

The Marcos family has yet to comment on the President's remarks.

The Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth was estimated at US$5-10 billion from February 1965 to 1986, according to the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Since the PCGG's inception in 1986 up to December 2015, the Commission has recovered over P170 billion (US$3 billion).

Terms of return unclear

Justice Vitaliano Aguirre said the terms covering what wealth or how the wealth will be turned over to the government are still unclear.

"Hindi natin alam papano isasauli ito, kung alin ang isasauli. Parang ang lumalabas, 'yun lang na nadiscover, 'yun lang ang isasauli," he said on Wednesday.

[Translation: We don't know yet how it will be returned, which ones will be turned over. It seems, only those that were discovered will be turned over.]

He said the President has the power to make agreements or compromises with the Marcoses.

"Kung meron new agreement, dapat meron sigurong enabling law or administrative law or regulation to be issued by the President himself," Aguirre said.

Senator Ping Lacson said he cannot speculate if there are preconditions to the offer, but he said he knows there is "a lot of goodwill" between Duterte and the Marcos family.

Rosales said any return of the ill-gotten wealth should be "within the purview of the judicial process." "So ang tinatanong ko, paano nila gagawin ito," she said. (Translation: "So I ask, how will they do this?")

Call for accountability, transparency

Senator Risa Hontiveros said any return of the ill-gotten wealth by the Marcos family is empty if it lacked accountability.

"Without justice and accountability, without acknowledgment 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 a ploy to buy false credibility and further stain our history," she said in a statement.

Liberal Party President Senator Kiko Pangilinan questioned the sincerity and credibility of the offer.

"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 dun lang natin paniniwalaan ang kanilang sinseridad," he said.

Offer a welcome move

Senator Lacson said any wealth the Marcos family will turn over to the government will be beneficial to the country.

"If there's such an offer that's good because whatever wealth that can be turned over to the government, eh, dagdag sa national treasury," he said.

Senator Chiz Escudero acknowledged the move will be a step forward, but like his colleagues, reiterated the need for accountability from the Marcoses.

"It is welcome and a step forward. However, the offer might not be enough for some sectors as the meat of the issue for them has always been about three things: admission, accountability and complete reparation," he said.

Netizens said the move to return a part of the wealth shows that the Marcos family trusts President Duterte and his administration.

"Maybe because the Marcoses does (sic) not trust the previous administration for it will just go to the corrupt hands instead to the Filipino people," netizen Raymond Rivera said on Facebook.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte's statements on Tuesday were made in the "spirit of transparency."

"The Chief Executive has the best interests of the Filipinos in mind, which is, how our people would benefit from the recovery of the Marcos wealth," he said.

Duterte allowed the burial of former President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He has also made statements saying Marcos's son, former senator Bongbong Marcos, could become the country's next vice president.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Cecille Lardizabal and correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.