“I accept the explanation because there is no other explanation. I do not know anything. I cannot debate with them.”
-- President Duterte, Sept. 2, 2017
 Related News Sense column: “How much money the Marcoses would keep,” Aug. 31, 2017
Since President Duterte disclosed that the Marcos family would return a part of their wealth to the government, two major questions surged but didn’t draw an adequate answer.
 HOW MUCH. A spokesman, whom Duterte didn’t identify, said they’d “open everything” and return what only could be seen (“yung makita lang”). That means they decide what the government can get back.
Only P170 billion -- in cash, shares of stock, real estate, paintings and jewelries -- has been recovered by Presidential Commission on Good Government from the Marcoses and their cronies in 31 years of hunting and digging. If PCGG’s estimate of a $10 billion loot is correct, almost $7 billion (that’s U.S. dollars) is still out there, stashed in places only the Marcoses know.
 IN RETURN FOR WHAT. The Marcoses wouldn’t be doing this if they couldn’t get something in return. And with a president friendly to the family, they expect to get better terms. Which would’ve been unthinkable under an Aquino presidency.
But then Duterte said the Marcoses are not seeking immunity, which if kept would mean they’re confident they wouldn’t land in jail at all. Haven’t they been free all these years? They even hold high positions in government.
Despite the no-immunity promise, the Marcoses would probably ask for a clean slate: drop any and all charges against them and their friends and dump all forfeiture cases, pending or still-to-be filed. What would be the point of settling if the pursuit for the Marcos wealth would go on?
Duterte didn’t say the Marcoses are admitting (1) the wealth is ill-gotten and (2) they erred in keeping it. That, to him, seemed irrelevant to the goal of retrieving some of the money.
Not Duterte alone
Who decides whether the government will accept the short end of the bargain? Leave it all to Duterte? He has already indicated he’d agree to a deal: what they’d return would be “small” and “a few gold bars... it’s not Fort Knox.”
The good thing is that recently he seemed not to want to decide alone. In insisting on authority from Congress, he’s asking for legislature’s help in setting parameters for the agreement.
Theory on stealing
Duterte is willing not to dispute the interesting yet absurd explanation that all the wealth was stashed away by then president-dictator Ferdinand Marcos to “protect the economy” because he had planned to return to Malacañang from his exile in Hawaii.
All those years of sacking the coffers over the feared prospect of being evicted from power and the ready plan of staging a comeback. See the deviousness. And the “looters” probably dictating the terms of surrendering the money.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 07, 2017.
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