NO less than President Sodrigo Duterte started the ball rolling, sort of. In a speech last Aug. 29, he announced that a supposed emissary from the Marcos family told him that the Marcoses were willing to give back “even a few gold bars” to help fund his administration’s programs. The claim was that the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos didn’t really steal those gold bars from the government but merely hid it for safekeeping.
That sparked reactions that included one from party-list congressman and former Manila City mayor Lito Atienza, who said he heard such a talk years before from the former first lady Imelda Marcos. “She told me, ‘A superpower is preventing us. We can’t move any of the gold deposited in many parts of the world.’ I asked her, ‘what is your estimate?’ 7,000 tons,” Atienza said in a press conference.
What has not been said is that the story of the Marcos gold bars has actually followed the line of the legendary Yamashita treasure, which contains gold bars and gemstones worth billions of dollars. The treasure was supposedly looted by the Japanese Imperial Army under Admiral Tomoyuki Yamashita and stashed in several caves and underground tunnels in the Philippines. Treasure hunters have been looking for the treasure through the decades but are still to find it.
On the Marcos gold, Atienza quoted the Imeldific, who sometimes makes outlandish claims. And Imelda herself still has to prove that such a stash, 7,000 tons of gold, exists. By comparison, Fort Knox in the US held as of last year 4,582 metric tons of gold worth about $180 billion (Wikipedia). That means that the 7,000 tons of gold is worth trillions of pesos now, enough to make the country rich.
Here’s another Imelda claim in an October 1997 article written by Uli Schmetzer for the Chicago Tribune titled, “Rumors of Marcos Gold Stash Long Outlive Him” (Imelda was then in her early term as congresswoman):
“The former first lady told a spellbound Congress during a 45-minute speech about how she tried to renovate her in-laws’ ancestral home in northern Batac by knocking down a brick wall after she returned from a one-year, around-the-world honeymoon in 1954.
“‘When Ferdinand saw what I had done, instead of being gratified at my initiative, he was flabbergasted and asked what I had done with all those bricks,’ she said. ‘Then he ordered that the bricks be gathered and neatly piled.
“‘It turned out that those were gold bricks covered with lead and were securely plastered in the walls of the rooms that I had designed,’ she told a Congress whose committees have been attempting for 10 years to solve the mystery of the missing gold.”
But while proof that the 7,000 tons of Marcos gold existed is still to be fully had, gold bars did find its way to the US when the Marcoses left there for exile at the height of the 1986 People Power uprising. They were transported to Hawaii together with their possessions in two C-141 transport planes. The official US customs record said that among these “possessions” were more than P27 million in freshly printed notes and, yes, 24 smaller gold bricks inscribed with the words, “To my husband on our 24th anniversary.”