Bongbong Marcos on the family business

Monocle magazine feature on Imelda, Bongbong Marcos
Monocle Magazine April 2013, courtesy of Jing Garcia

Monocle Magazine April 2013, courtesy of Jing Garcia, that features the article about Imelda and Bongbong Marcos

“When I saw what my father went through in 1986 I didn’t want anything to do with politics,” [Bongbong Marcos] says. “I wanted to make money.” After high marks at the London School of Economics he earned an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. But, he says, he realised that politics was in his blood. “It’s the family business.”

— From the April 2013 issue of Monocle Magazine in an article written by Mort Rosenblum entitled “It’s All Relative—Philippines.”

Some are smarter than others

Estimates vary of course. But when the Marcoses, their close relatives, associates, and assistants left Malacañang in 1986, the amount that they reportedly stole was estimated at $10 billion.

Based on informal calculations I made using wolframalpha.com — no fancy formulas involved, just a logical way of formulating a text-based question (not exactly rocket science) — $10 billion then is worth $19.7 billion now.

Multiply that by the current peso-dollar exchange rate — P46 to a greenback — and you get an estimated P906.2 billion.

How much is P906.2 billion?

More than half of the Philippine national budget of 2010.

Okay, let’s exaggerate a bit. It’s still more than half of the Aquino administration’s proposed budget for 2011, which is P1.7 trillion.

Let’s not even count cash they stole that remains unreported.

And let’s not even think about the “opportunity costs” lost — say, the economic multiplier effect had X amount of money been allotted to land reform — because the government failed to recover the wealth immediately.

In short, if the government isn’t going to do anything about it, or if they do so haphazardly, what Imelda Marcos once said when asked about ger family’s stupendous wealth might be proven true: that some are smarter than others.

I was once more reminded of the enormity — which has two meanings, both appropriate, look them up — of the Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth after I read the first chapter of Imelda and the Clans: A Story of the Philippines.

The 600-plus page book was written by Beatriz Romualdez Francia, who, among others, describes herself as Imelda’s “dissident niece.”

Here are some numbers I derived after reading the first chapter.

Number of the Marcos entourage members — including “hairdressers, gardeners, closest henchmen” — that left Malacañang in February 1986: 89

Height, in feet, of a Malacañang closet that stored Imelda’s nightgowns: 10

Number of gowns stored in said closet: 1,200

Number of shelves that contained unused Gucci handbags: 5

Total number of Gucci handbags stored in said shelves: 1,500

Number of black brassieres stored in the same closet: 500

Number of clothes racks that were empty: 67

Number of mink coats: 15

Number of silver fox stoles: 6

Number of parasols: 65

Number of scarves: 464

Number of handkerchiefs: 664

Number of sunglasses found stuffed in a chest: 71

Number of teddy bears with “loving words from George [presumably Hamilton]: 1

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Thanks to Michael Francis McCarthy for the photo of the book.