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When President Rodrigo Duterte announced Aug. 29 that he was in talks with the Marcoses regarding their ill-gotten wealth, he not only surprised the nation, but also contradicted two decades of colorful, albeit conflicting, narratives by Imelda Marcos herself, wife of the late strongman Ferdinand.
In a speech during the mass oath-taking of his new appointees, Duterte said the family of the late dictator told him they are willing to “open everything, and probably return iyong nakita lang (what have been found)."
The president added that the Marcoses told him they wanted to help the current administration cope with a projected large deficit in government spending this year, and so would want to return “a few gold bars.”
Duterte said he was told by the Marcoses:
“But we are ready to open and bring back, sabi niya pati iyong a few gold bars. Hindi ganoon kalaki, it’s not a Fort Knox, it’s just a few, but sabi nila isauli nila para walang ano (It’s not substantial, not a Fort Knox, just a few, but they said they’ll return it so there won’t be problems).
Source: RTVMalacañang, Mass Oath-Taking of Presidential Appointees, Aug. 29, 2017, watch 4:35- 5:43
The president also said that the gold bars were supposedly taken by Marcos from the country’s vaults to “protect the country’s economy.”
Duterte’s statement about the Marcos gold bars runs counter to the various assertions in several interviews earlier made by former first lady and now Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Imelda Marcos.
In 1992, months after returning to the Philippines from Hawaii, Imelda was quoted in two international publications, The Bulletin and United Press International, saying the gold came from the Japanese. The late dictator found the treasure which Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita allegedly buried in the country during World War II, she said.
Four years later, Imelda was interviewed on the British show “Ruby Wax meets…” where she said her husband already owned gold bullions, even before he entered politics. These gold bullions, she said, were covered in lead and were hidden in the walls of their house. A video of the interview is available on Youtube.
In December 1998, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a five-part special report based on marathon interviews with the Marcos matriarch. She talked about how the Marcos family was supposedly able to “own almost everything in the Philippines,” due to the late strongman’s wealth, acquired even before they met and married. She also denied her previous claim that the gold the Marcoses have are from the Yamashita treasure.
A portion of the fourth part of the series read:
“Ms. Marcos furnished the Inquirer a copy of a three-inch-thick document, that contained, among others, an account of how her husband accumulated wealth and power.
She and her lawyers would use these documents as evidence against the PCGG and the trustee-cronies. ‘We will show them that my husband’s wealth was not ill-gotten and that he used his own money to buy these companies.’”
Source: The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Marcos had gold hoard of 4,000 tons. December 8, 1998
In the same series of reports, Imelda went on to explain how, in the 1940s, her husband supposedly began trading gold, using his income as a lawyer and from his time in the military. By the 1970s, during martial law, Marcos had already amassed 4,000 tons of gold, and it was this wealth, Imelda said, that they used to buy companies, through the help of their cronies which she called “trustees.”
A separate Inquirer article quoted Gabriel Singson, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor in 1998, disputing the claim, and saying 4,000 tons of gold was 14 times bigger than the BSP’s total gold purchases from 1977-1987. The BSP’s acquired gold only totalled 286.06 metric tons during this period, the same report quoted Singson.
Quoting other experts, the Inquirer noted that Imelda’s story is unbelievable, because 4,000 tons of gold would be “more than half of the United States’ gold reserves stored in Fort Knox, more than all the gold reserves of the German central bank and equal to South Africa’s 10-year production, one of the world’s biggest gold producers.”
Imelda was invited to a Senate hearing later that month. She denied granting an interview to the Inquirer, but repeated that the late strongman’s gold came from trading.
Ten years later, in a 2008 interview with journalist Inday Espina-Varona, Imelda narrated the same story she told the Inquirer. The interview was re-posted online by ABS-CBN News in 2015.
RTVMalacañang, Mass Oath-Taking of Presidential Appointees, March 29, 2017.
ABS-CBN.com. Imelda’s Truth: Reclaiming gold and paradise. October 18, 2015
Inday Espina-Varona blog. Imelda’s Truth. October 15, 2015
Philippine Headline News Online. Senate hearing on wealth: Imelda stays mum. December 22, 1998
CBSNews.com. Imelda grilled over riches. December 21, 1998
The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editorial: Gold yarn. December 11, 1998
The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Marcos had gold hoard of 4,000 tons. December 8, 1998
The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Imelda letter back tale of trading. December 8, 1998
Ruby Wax meets… Imelda Marcos describes how her husband filled their walls with gold bullion. January 28, 1996
The Bulletin. Marcos widow claims wealth due to Yamashita treasure. February 3, 1992
United Press International. Marcos seized Japanese war booty to amass fortune, Imelda says. February 3, 1992
Salonga, J. (2000). Presidential plunder: The quest for the Marcos ill-gotten wealth. Quezon City. University of the Philippines