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.”

Uneasy like Sunday morning

(This is a draft of a chapter of a commissioned biography. Permission to publish it in its raw form has been secured on the condition that the names of persons and some companies be changed.)

It wasn’t exactly easy like Sunday morning.

But it was nevertheless the last day of the weekend, a day when people sat back, put their feet up, and relaxed; a day when the world took things slow and shifted to a lower gear, the better to prepare for the accelerated pace of another work week.

For Antonio Valencia (not his real name), June 16, 1974 was a Sunday unlike any other.

Continue reading

Marcos loyalists help save the Earth by planting trees in UP

A Marcos loyalist shows the back of her membership card.

MARCOS loyalists don’t get any respect these days.

Just ask Josefina Mangilit, the 59-year-old Quezon City coordinator of the Friends of Imelda Romualdez Marcos (FIRM 24K), which she says has 13,000 members across the country.

Everytime she goes out to attend the group’s twice-weekly meetings—Saturdays in Quezon City, Sundays at the Luneta—she dons a bright red vest that displays her affiliations (an outfit the group calls its uniform). Continue reading

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 — 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


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

What this Aquino can do to those Marcoses

(From an email written by Ruben Carranza, a former official of Presidential Commission on Good Government, and addressed to Ricky Carandang, in reply to his questions regarding the latest proposed deal to “steal part of what was already stolen money.” The same email message was a note posted by Carranza on his Facebook page in which I was tagged.)

1. A PCGG-Marcos settlement is arguably barred now by the 2003 Supreme Court decision: it’s a final decision and it said that anything beyond the lawful income of the Marcoses from 1968 to 1985 is ill-gotten and to be forfeited.

The earlier SC decision in Chavez vs PCGG (sometime in 1999 I think) had laid down some requirements for transparency etc. in negotiating a compromise plus specified what can’t be included in one (e.g. no tax immunity, etc.).

But it can be argued that the Chavez case has been superseded by the 2003 decision as far as the validity of a compromise itself.

2. Just before I left PCGG, the last court document I drafted was meant to build an almost-idiot-proof/corruption-proof way of trapping the Marcoses and future PCGG officials in the finality of that SC decision.

The idea was to have a motion for execution of the SC decision filed in every case against the Marcoses et al (which is practically all PCGG cases) on the basic argument that the Marcoses already lost these cases once the SC said that they couldn’t legally claim to have earned more than $304,372.43 from 1968-1985.

While the 2003 decision involved the Swiss bank deposits, the reasoning applies to any Marcos assets — which is why Bong Bong’s admission — quoted in the same SC decision — is relevant because he speaks of all their Swiss assets — and we know that he is not referring only to the assets of the five foundations forfeited in that SC decision.

Here’s part of what Marcos Jr. said in open court — the last sentence is what the SC concluded about it:

ATTY. FERNANDO: Mr. Marcos, did you ever have any meetings with PCGG Chairman Magtanggol C. Gunigundo?

F. MARCOS, JR.: Yes. I have had very many meetings in fact with Chairman.

P[residing] J[ustice] GARCHITORENA: In connection with what?

ATTY. FERNANDO: In connection with the ongoing talks to compromise the various cases initiated by PCGG against your family?

F. MARCOS, JR.: The nature of our meetings was solely concerned with negotiations towards achieving some kind of agreement between the Philippine government and the Marcos family.

ATTY. FERNANDO: Basically, what were the true amounts of the assets in the bank?

PJ GARCHITORENA: So, we are talking about liquid assets here? Just Cash?

F. MARCOS, JR.: Well, basically, any assets. Anything that was under the Marcos name in any of the banks in Switzerland which may necessarily be not cash.

PJ GARCHITORENA: What did you do in other words, after being apprised of this contract in connection herewith?

F. MARCOS, JR.: I assumed that we are beginning to implement the agreement because this was forwarded through the Philippine government lawyers through our lawyers and then, subsequently, to me. I was a little surprised because we hadn’t really discussed the details of the transfer of the funds, what the bank accounts, what the mechanism would be.

Ferdinand Jr.’s pronouncements, taken in context and in their entirety, were a confirmation of respondents’ recognition of their ownership of the Swiss bank deposits”

3. So we then filed a motion for execution in what remained of Civil Case 141 (which was where the 2003 SC decision began) with respect to the remaining part of the case that involved about 1/3 of the Imelda Marcos jewelry now in the Central Bank (I see that the PCGG wants to auction them off; an Aquino administration auctioning them off would get a far better price because of (a) the credibility of the administration that would be taking that decision and (b) a sense of historic closure that certainly doesn’t hurt when selling proof of someone’s criminal extravagance.)

This same strategy of seeking the execution of what lawyers call the ‘ratio decidendi’ — the reasoning of the case — in the 2003 decision can be done, by way of different kinds of motions (a motion for summary judgment, ideally), in all other pending PCGG Sandiganbayan cases.

4. The part of the decision quoting Bong Bong was described by the SC as an admission by Bong Bong that he knows his parents acquired ill-gotten wealth and what these ill-gotten assets are (which he says is ‘everything’ and not just the Swiss bank deposits being litigated in 2003).

What does this mean if he becomes Senator? It means, first of all, that he is unfit for the office, and any Senator can move for his expulsion if the Senators agree that ‘disorderly behavior’ [which is the basis for disciplining a Senator] can’t possibly be more punishable that abetting and profiting from plunder;

(b) if he is elected, then the Constitution requires Marcos Jr. “upon assumption of office, (to) make a full disclosure of his financial and business interests” — so he cannot begin to discuss a compromise with the State without also disclosing the assets he claims to be his to compromise and

(c) he arguably may not even be part of negotiating any compromise with the State because the Constitution also says that “he shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit.”

5. If corrupt incumbents who have anything to do with any effort to surrendering the fight against the Marcoses can’t help it, then perhaps one option is to warn them of yet another constitutional provision: “The right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired…shall not be barred by prescription, laches or estoppel.”

A compromise — specially one that undermines a final SC decision against the Marcoses, that does not lead to the return of Marcos assets not yet found/frozen earlier by the PCGG, that essentially is being done in bad faith — can be undone and is not subject to estoppel.

6. A few final points about impunity: Just a few months ago, I was surprised to read — in a development that should have been but wasn’t well-covered in Philippine journalism — that the Supreme Court of Pakistan, faced with an earlier decision by the deposed military dictator Pavez Musharaff to unfreeze the ill-gotten Swiss deposits of the family of current President Asif Zardari (the husband of assassinated PM Benazir Bhutto), not only overturned this decision BUT cited the 2003 Philippine SC decision involving the Marcoses.

What we do with the impunity that the Marcoses still have matters to the rest of the world.

In my current work — going after the war crimes of ex-dictators and ex-warlords, helping governments and human rights activists and violations victims get compensation from the assets of these perpetrators, setting up truth commissions and war crimes courts to hold these violators to account — the half-finished effort to hold the Marcoses accountable for massive human rights violations and for large-scale corruption is still seen as an open question, one that matters to those fighting their own legacies of impunity everywhere else.

Whether to Peruvians dealing with Fujimori’s legacy and own efforts to return to power through his daughter, or to Serbs who can’t get Milosevic’s ill-gotten assets and whose own children and widow have taken control over those assets outside the country, or Indonesians who can no longer go after the dead Suharto and, it seems, even after his son Tommy, or to Liberians who cannot get a law passed in parliament to get Charles Taylor’s assets back because his wife and allies are Senators blocking that bill — how Filipinos deal with the Marcoses will shape their opinion of our moral standing as a people and will certainly impact on how international law, including the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court, is shaped.

If Aquino gets elected — and whether or not Marcos Jr. becomes Senator — the first order of business in fighting impunity mustn’t be a short-sighted effort to simply charge the Arroyo family with plunder for stealing a fraction of what the Marcoses stole and still possess.

It must be to (a) establish a truth commission that goes back to the start of the dictatorship and its repercussions up to now, with the power to recommend the creation of a human rights court to try perpetrators of rights violations during and after the dictatorship,

(b) possibly to abolish the PCGG and in its place establish a commission to implement the provisions of the UN Convention Against Corruption against anyone — Marcos/Marcos crony/heir and proxy of Marcos and Marcos crony in control of illicit-acquired assets — who falls within its ambit, with the power to file mutual legal assistance requests abroad as well as authority OVER the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) insofar as former and incumbent public officials are concerned.

The idea is to send a signal — to the Marcoses, to would-be Marcoses, to our own people, and to people everywhere who want to see our flag raised again in this fight.

Five things Donald Draper and Ferdinand Marcos have in common

(UPDATED 9 September 2012) Donald Draper, Mad Men’s protagonist, and the late Philippine dictator share certain characteristics besides having — and using — their cojones, in both the literal and figurative sense.
As a result, this piece may divulge certain spoilers — both for those who haven’t seen the award-wining American television series and those who continue to maintain, to this day, that Marcos is God’s gift to the Philippines.
To these groups of people, I say: May your tribes decrease.

1) The Don and Da Apo made the moves on — and scored with — the babes

The Don slept with Midge, a beatnik illustrator; Rachel, a department store heiress; Joy, a daughter of a European viscount; and Bobbie, the wife of a famous comedian, a cougar. Of course at that time, cougars still referred to four-legged creatures, not to two-legged felines on the hunt for younger males.

Joy, a daughter of a European viscount, is just one among many partners of Draper.

Joy, a daughter of a European viscount, is just one among many partners of Draper.

Despite being married to Betty, a yummy mommy, Don preferred dinner elsewhere. Same goes for Da Apo.

When he proposed to Imelda Romualdez, Ferdie was already engaged months before to a certain Carmen Ortega, who held the beauty title of Ms. Press Photography, Carmen Navarro Pedrosa writes in her book, The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos. But that didn’t prevent Ferdie and Meldy from pursuing plans that would later make them the sole members of the Philippines’ conjugal dictatorship.
On May 1, 1954, Imelda agreed to marry Ferdie after a whirlwind eleven-day courtship that included a trip to Baguio City and, according to Charles C. McDougald, author of The Marcos Files, “an invitation to a bank vault where he displayed his collection of stacks of $100 bills.”

Shown is a cover of a book about Marcos' and Dovie Beams affair. Thanks,

Shown is a cover of a book about Marcos’ and Dovie Beams affair. Thanks,

Apparently, it was love at first sight, McDougald writes in his 1987 book. But love, first sight or otherwise, wasn’t enough to make Marcos stay put on the matrimonial bed.

In 1970, the dictator had an affair with Dovie Beams, an actress who played the lead actor’s romantic interest in Maharlika, a movie about Marcos’ war exploits. After Ferdie lost interest, the spurned lover called a press conference where she played a tape recording of “Fred” and her making beautiful music together.
Too bad consumer video cameras would only be introduced a decade or so later.

2) Draper and Marcos were married to beautiful, strong-willed yet troubled women

January Jones poses as Betty Draper, who worked as a model before marrying Don.

January Jones poses as Betty Draper, who worked as a model before marrying Don.

Before becoming spouses of Don and Ferdie respectively, Betty Hofstadt and Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romualdez were already noted for their beauty.
The former modeled fur coats for a living before she dated Don and the latter — already considered as the Rose of Tacloban — helped gather crowds while campaigning for her cousin Danieling, who ran as a congressman of Leyte.
The Iron Butterfly — as Imelda would be later be called — also posed for a picture that appeared on the Valentine’s issue of This Week, the Magazine of the newspaper The Manila Chronicle, shortly after she arrived in Manila in 1952, Pedrosa writes in her unauthorized biography.
But these women also suffered various setbacks.
After already having what looks like domestic bliss — two kids and a house in Westchester County, an upscale New York suburb — Betty is forced to reckon with her feelings that she has reached a dead end in her life.
Her stress results in the uncontrollable trembling of her hands, a condition that would later cause her to lose control of the car while driving the kids around.

An undated photo of Imelda Marcos perhaps before she acquired 3,000 pairs of shoes.

An undated photo of Imelda Marcos perhaps before she acquired 3,000 pairs of shoes.

The minor accident prompts Don to allow her to see a psychiatrist.

Besides encouraging her to pursue modeling again, the sessions also empower her to throw Don out of the house, gather enough gumption to indulge in a quickie with a bar patron, and eventually seek a divorce, a move that has yet to gain social acceptance at that time.

Like Betty, Imelda would also see a psychiatrist in New York shortly after being married.
She broke down from the pressure brought upon by her husband who wanted her to become more self-confident and sophisticated.
“There were times when she would just collapse and her feet would grow numb and cold. We would take her to Dr. Barcelona who lived nearby,” Pedrosa writes in The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos, citing Conchita, her sister.
“Very little is known about what exactly precipitated her “nervous breakdown,”” Pedrosa adds. In his book, The Marcos File, McDougald says that

“Imelda had been known to use symbols, such as triangles, rectangles, circles, and hearts, when discussing her role in the development of her country. Such explanations, according to observers, tended to be somewhat hazy if not downright exasperating. She truly believed that God had blessed her country. She knew this because of the “hole in the sky.” In all seriousness, she has shared with others on numerous occasions the belief that there was a hole in the sky directly over the Philippines from which God looks benevolently down on her people.”

3) The ad exec and the president had chequered war records

Donald Draper is not Donald Draper.
He’s Richard Whitman, a US Army soldier in the Korean War and the only subordinate and companion of a Lieutenant Donald Draper, who, in turn, is tasked to build a field hospital.
Shortly after his deployment, Whitman accidentally sets off explosives, killing his superior.
Whitman then switches his identity with his dead commanding officer, allowing him to leave the Army and his family and start life anew as Draper, the advertising executive.

Donald Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is really Richard Whitman, who served in the Korean War.

Donald Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is really Richard Whitman, who served in the Korean War.

Whitman — and later Draper — was a small-time operator compared to the late Philippine president, whose war medals and citations — if true — rank him as among the most decorated in Philippine history, next to Captain Jesus Villamor and Major Egmidio Cruz.
The so-called World War II hero earned anywhere from 32 to 34 medals, many of which are questionable, McDougald says in his book.
Of all Marcos’ medals, two — a Silver Star Medal and a Distinguished Silver Cross — were awarded by the United States for his exploits in two separate events in January 1942 that was only two days apart.
The first — on January 16 — involved “gallantry in action” in Balanga, Bataan while the second was awarded for his intelligence-gathering activities after crossing enemy lines and escaping imprisonment, McDougald adds in the same book.
Both citations are based on two separate affidavits both dated February 1, 1946 and signed by a Major Aurelio Lucero.
Both affidavits are the only proof submitted for the awards, McDougald says, citing a US Department of the Army letter dated November 1985. Another letter dated December 21, 1985 and written by US Army Lt. Col. Harrison Lobdell III states that

”there are not General Orders or Special Orders from the USAFFE [US Armed Forces in the Far East] confirming Marcos’ entitlement to the Silver Star and the Distinguished Silver Cross.”

Let’s not even get started on Marcos’ special guerilla unit, Ang Manga Maharlika, which claimed to have some 8,200 men as of April 1944.
The Maharlika claimed credit for achievements — such as blowing up enemy ships while docked at the Manila port — undertaken by other military units.
Just goes to show that money and property weren’t the only thing Marcos grabbed.

4) Both Draper’s and Marcos’ major foils die

Draper’s major foil is Adam Whitman, his half-brother, a janitor who stumbled upon him in New York after recognizing a picture of Richard Whitman aka Draper — while holding an advertising industry trophy — published in the inside pages of a newspaper.
When Adam pays a visit to his office, the advertising executive denies existence of his past life and old identity but later agrees to meet his half-brother for lunch.
Later on, Draper drops by Adam’s apartment, offering him $5,000 — or roughly $37,000 in current terms (that’s more than a million pesos) — to leave town.
Adam complies and later sends a package of photos to Draper’s office before committing suicide.
The package would fall into the wrong hands but that’s another story.

Aquino's assassination helped cement opposition against Marcos.

Aquino’s assassination helped cement opposition against Marcos.

In the meantime, Marcos’ foil — ex-senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. — didn’t just die, he was assassinated in 1983 at the Manila International Airport, which is now named after him. Immediately, Marcos gets blamed but he and his supporters point their fingers at the communists. “[Aquino] was killed to avenge the wrongs [he] “had done to the NPA [New People’s Army, the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines],” Bienvenido A. Tan Jr. writes in The Public Has The Right to Know, citing the Marcos government’s explanation.
An alternative motive offered by the military was that Aquino was killed for misappropriating money received from Libya intended for the NPA, a claim Libya denied, Tan said in the same book which deals with the findings of a commission that investigated the Aquino assassination in 1984.
To this day, nearly three decades after the incident, no one knows who masterminded the assassination, despite an investigation that examined testimonies of 193 witnesses and yielded 20,000 pages of steno notes, 200 affidavits, more than 100 medical and technical documents, 16 reels of microfilm (featuring 2,200 shots), and 150 photos of 13 photographers. (These figures are from Tan’s book).

5) Donald and Ferdie both have strong powers of persuasion

In The Wheel — what may well be one of Mad Men’s most powerful episodes — Donald Draper is tasked to make a pitch to a pair of Kodak executives to get the account.

A famous shot of the late Philippine President Marcos declaring martial law

A famous shot of the late Philippine President Marcos declaring martial law

The responsibility involves providing a name for a device — a wheel containing photo slides that can be attached to a projector — so that it can be properly branded, marketed, and sold.
After asking an assistant to turn off the lights, Draper begins to click on the projector, flashing pictures of his wedding, his wife, and his kids while delivering this spiel off the cuff:

“Nostalgia — it’s delicate, but potent…It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels — around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

Marcos wasn’t as persuasive but he nevertheless made the cut in terms of craftiness.
Sometime in the mid-sixties, the Japanese were scouting around for an Asian city ideal enough to host the headquarters of a regional multilateral institution they were planning to put up.
Marcos hosted the visiting delegation onboard the presidential yacht Ang Pangulo.
He then reportedly gave the crew explicit instructions to continue staying at sea until after the Japanese were persuaded to choose Manila.
This explains why the Philippine capital is the site of the Asian Development Bank’s headquarters.
Several years later, when corruption allegations and lavish spending threatened his rule, Marcos dissolved both houses of the Philippine Congress, ordered the arrest of his political opponents, and shut down newspapers and television and radio networks.
On September 23, 1972, he went live on national television and said that

“As of the 21st of this month, I signed Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under martial law.”

Effects of that proclamation — including other policies that benefitted himself, his family, and his cronies — explain to a greater degree why the country remains in this rut, 25 years after he was deposed as president.

Fenton on the Aquino assassination

Not everybody believes, I was to discover, that President [Ferdinand] Marcos personally authorized the murder. At the time, one is assured, he was having one of his relapses. A man who was involved in the design of the presidential dentures told me, meaningly, that at the time of Ninoy’s death Marcos’s gums were very swollen – which was always a sign. And he added, intriguingly, that whenever Marcos’s gums were swollen, the gums of General Ver, the Chief of Staff, swelled up in sympathy. Marcos was in the military hospital at the time, and I have it from someone who knew one of his nurses that, when he heard the news, Marcos threw his food-tray at his wife, Imelda. Others say he slapped her, but I prefer the food-tray version.

— James Fenton on The Snap Revolution as published in Granta 18