MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday admitted that he remains undecided whether to auction off the estimated $20-million jewelry collection that the government seized from former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
“I have no expertise when it comes to jewelry. We still have no discussion on that,” he said, referring to the Presidential Commission on Good Government that his late mother created in 1987, and whose mandate is to recover ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.
PCGG chairman Andres Bautista wanted the jewelry auctioned off to generate additional funds for the cash-strapped government, but Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. does not agree with the proposal.
Aquino said there are many factors that have to be considered for the auction to push through.
“How much are we going to get from the auction? Are these worthwhile pieces? Is this the right time to sell it? Where do you actually sell it?” he said.
The President wanted to be doubly sure that all the pieces of jewelry will be disposed of and would in turn benefit the government.
Part of his job is to ensure that these jewelry are kept inside a vault at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Aquino expressed confidence in the BSP leadership, and that it will take good care of the assets of government.
The jewels of Marcos that the government seized are divided into three: the Malacañang collection which has roughly 300 pieces left behind in Imelda’s closets when the Marcoses hurriedly left in 1986; the Honolulu collection of at least 400 pieces seized by the US Bureau of Customs from the Marcoses when they fled to Hawaii; and the collection named after Imelda’s Greek accomplice, Demetriou Roumeliotes, who was caught by Philippine authorities trying to spirit 60 pieces of jewelry out of the country a few weeks after the Marcoses left.
The most prominent among the pieces is Imelda’s 37-carat diamond.
The PCGG chief said the Roumeliotes collection is the most expensive of the three because this consists of very big pieces.
Imelda opposes plan
Meanwhile, Imelda yesterday expressed strong opposition to the plan of the PCGG.
She also criticized the PCGG for confiscating her jewelry and insisted that she acquired these even before her late husband became president.
“The PCGG people stole my jewelry. They should return them to me instead of placing them on exhibit,” Marcos, now the representative of Ilocos Norte’s second district, said.
“Not a single centavo in government money was spent on those jewelry. They were already mine before Ferdinand became president,” Marcos said. Marcos said all that’s left with her are cheap jewelry which she showed to reporters.
Marcos was joined by her children – Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, and Irene Marcos-Araneta – during the late president’s 95th birthday celebration in Batac City, Ilocos Norte yesterday.
The birthday celebration was capped by the opening of a Marcos Museum at the Malacañang of the North in Paoay. – With Teddy Molina, Raymund Catindig