Duterte: Marcoses not asking for immunity in exchange for returning wealth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — President Rodrigo Duterte said the Marcos family did not ask for immunity from suit in exchange for returning their wealth to the government.

"They did not ask any immunity," Duterte told reporters on Tuesday night. "And I could not guarantee it also. I know that I'm not the proper authority to do that."

The President's statement came after he had said the kin of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was "ready to return" their wealth, possibly through a settlement.

Read: Duterte: Marcoses offer settlement on family wealth

"I accept the explanation because there is no other explanation," he said in Davao City on Saturday night. "I do not know anything. I cannot debate with them. So sinabi ko [I said], I accept the invitation na [that] it's about time that this thing is finally settled."

However, the President reiterated on Tuesday that Congress must pass a law for the turnover to happen.

Related: Palace awaits Congress to 'authorize' Duterte for Marcos wealth deal

"It's a long process," he said. "It does not belong to me. It was just a signal from the Marcoses they will bring back what the people are believing to be theirs."

Duterte added that the wealth that the Marcoses plan to return is different from what the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the government agency tasked with recovering the billions of pesos plundered by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has been trying to retrieve.

According to the World Bank-UN Office on Drugs and Crime's Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, former President Marcos started amassing ill-gotten wealth from the government on his first year in office in 1965.

He was ousted by a popular revolt in 1986 amid allegations of corruption and human rights violations. He died in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1989.

The study revealed Marcos siphoned an estimated $5-billion to $10-billion in his 21-year regime.

The PCGG has recovered over ₱170 billion (US$3 billion) between February 1986 and December 2015.

Meanwhile, victims of human rights violations during the martial law era started receiving compensation in May 2017.

Read: Martial law victims receive first half of monetary compensation

Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 grants monetary and non-monetary reparation to human rights victims.

The government has allotted ₱10 billion for the reparation of the victims, which came from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family transferred to the Philippine government by the Swiss Federal Court in December 1997.

Deal or no deal?

Although Duterte said he will not advise the Marcoses anything, he said it doesn't make sense for them to return the wealth and end up in jail.

"If I were the Marcoses, kung isauli ko lang naman 'yan, sabihin ko sa kanila, "Maghingi kayo ng immunity,"" he said. "Otherwise, keep the God d*** money at baka makukulong ka pa. Bigyan mo ng immunity, fine. Hindi mo bigyan ng immunity, fine. But walang perang isauli 'yan. Then you'll have to look to the ends of the earth to get them."

[Translation: If I were the Marcoses, if I would return that wealth, I would advise them, "Ask for immunity." Otherwise, keep the God d**n money because you might go to jail. If you give them immunity, fine. If you don't give them immunity, fine. But they might not return any money. Then you'll have to look to the ends of the earth to get them.]

However, victims of the martial law regime said there should be no compromise with the Marcoses.

Read: Etta, Nene: Duterte deal with Marcoses 'unlawful'

"Ano ba namang klaseng pamahalaan ito, na pababayaan natin si Mr. Marcos — I mean the Marcos estate, yung pamilya — na magpasya kung a few gold bars ang isasauli nila at saka mag-usap-usap na lamang tayo?," former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales said in a Monday forum.

[Translation: What kind of government is this that would let Mr. Marcos - I mean the Marcos estate, the family - to decide to return just a few gold bars and then just talk it out among ourselves?]

At the same forum, former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said no conversation can settle the matter.

"The return of a few gold bars will not compensate for all [human rights abuses under the Marcos regime] but there is a need to bring closure; it cannot be done with mere conversation," said former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel in a Tuesday forum. "A process must be followed."

Rosales and Pimentel were both victims of the martial law regime.

Rosales was an activist who endured rape and torture in the hands of the military for being a Marcos critic, while Pimentel was a politician-on-the-rise who saw jail three times for opposing the dictatorship.

CNN Philippines Correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.