That the American judicial system and its law enforcement would dominate much of their lives in exile would have been a simple unexpectation for the forcibly fleeing Marcoses. After all, confidence in their long-standing friendship with the President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, who had personally and officially extended an invitation for them to relocate to Hawai'i, I would have precluded any hassling or worrisome thought emanating from the US government.
Nary a niche in the Marcos mind could have imagined an encounter with an anti-racketeering law intendedly, originally legislated against a criminal enterprise, the Mafia. Marcos may not even have heard of it, up to that moment. The RICO law. That stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, enacted in 1970. It is “a US federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and civil cause for action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.”
The foregoing assessment of their prevailing mood was good and reasonable as of the time the Marcoses landed at Hickham Air Base in Honolulu. It was February 26, 1986.
Some salient health notes on Ferdie are apropos and called for, at this point of our story. In order to establish his physical condition upon the start of his exile, immediately after a harrowing fall from power just a few days earlier, here are a couple of eyewitness accounts. I quote from the New York Times of Feb. 27, 1986.
Hawai’i Governor George Ariyoshi, a Marcos intimate: “He really appeared to be very spry and in good spirits.”
And to belie rumors that Marcos was carried on a stretcher to board the C-141 aircraft that flew them to Hawai’i, Air Force Maj. Virginia Prybila, spokesperson for CincPac (Commander-in-Chief, Pacific) said: “Though Marcos, 68, appeared weak, there was no evidence that his health had dramatically worsened.”
Fast forward to October 22, 1988. The front page, top story of The New York Times:
“MARCOS AND WIFE, 8 OTHERS CHARGED BY U.S. WITH FRAUD”
Then U.S. Attorney for Manhattan (Southern District of New York) Rudolph W. Giuliani filed the case under the RICO law. Rudy Giuliani was subsequently elected Mayor of New York City, serving from 1994 to the end of 2001. He is currently engaged as the private counsel of US President Donald Trump.
“Ferdinand E. Marcos was indicted yesterday in a racketeering case that includes charges that he embezzled more than $100 million from the Philippine Government and used the money to buy three buildings in New York City. The indictment ..….. also charged the former Philippine President with fraudulently borrowing $165 million from American banks to refinance the buildings and buy additional property.”
“Mr. Reagan, who had urged Mr. Marcos to leave office for exile in the United States, was troubled about prosecuting him ….. but said that he would not block the prosecution if the Administration determined that it was a legal matter rather than a foreign policy issue.”
“The Marcoses were ordered to appear for arraignment on October 31 in the Federal District Court in Manhattan.”
On October 27, the United Press International reported: “Health Concerns delay Marcos Arraignment.”
“Ailing former Philippines President Marcos need not appear in Manhattan next week for arraignment in a quarter billion-dollar racketeering case….a federal judge ruled Thursday.”
“In a surprise appearance before Manhattan U.S. District Judge John Keenan,” Marcos’s lawyers “submitted letters from Marcos’s doctors saying a heart condition prevented his travel to New York from Honolulu, where he has lived since his February 1986 ouster from the Philippines.”
“The Marcoses….were indicted last Friday on racketeering charges, using $103 million purloined from the Philippine treasury to buy four Manhattan buildings whose value now is estimated at more than $300 million.”
“Keenan granted the 71-year-old former president a temporary reprieve from the Manhattan arraignment but agreed to allow federal prosecutors to submit the opinion of another team of doctors as to Marcos’s fitness to travel.”
Enter Dr. Francis M. Weld. The Court commissioned him for that “opinion of another team of doctors as to Marcos’s fitness to travel,” as directed by Judge John F. Keenan. Dr. Weld is a Cardiovascular Disease Specialist. A cardiologist, a heart doctor. He was also an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, from where he received his degree in 1965. Dr. Weld, as far as I can delve, was to render the very first full medical, unexpurgated, physical examination of Ferdinand E. Marcos that was ever made available to the public. Ferdie, as we know, was obsessively secretive about his true health condition.
At this time, there was already palpable evidence as basis for suspicion that Marcos was indeed maneuvering to avoid being hailed off to New York City to face indictment for racketeering.
Let me stop a bit at this point of my storytelling and offer a sop to Marcos mercenary history revisionists. Ferdie, the principal indictee in that racketeering case, successfully avoided going to New York, and never went to trial. He died by and of medical reasons, somewhat mystifyingly, necrologically triumphant, fending off the arraignment. (This series will have an explanation for that phrase. Just you wait!)
Meldy, on the other hand, was tried and eventually acquitted by the federal jury, on her 61st birthday, July 2, 1990. Her lawyer, the flamboyant Gerald Spence, very deftly and effectively portrayed her as an innocent wife, oblivious of the criminal activities of her husband! Spence famously said: “Mrs. Marcos committed no crime except the crime of loving a man for 35 years, of raising his children, of being his First Lady, of being his ardent supporter, of taking his lavish gifts.”
Because Ferdie was dead and Gerald Spence’s exclusive concern was to save Meldy from jail, did he just throw the Marcos carcass under the bus? “Ninety-five government witnesses – including former Marcos officials, Aquino officials, real-estate executives and bankers – described how Ferdinand Marcos accepted huge kickbacks on everything from Japanese World War II reparations to government contracts for road building.”
Back to Dr. Francis Weld. He journeyed to Hawai’i for his appointment with the deposed dictator. For those who are familiar with the Honolulu landscape, visible to all visitors, upon leaving the airport on the way to Waikiki, on the far left mountain side looms a huge building complex, bright coral pink under the sun. That is the Trippler Army Medical Center. It was there where Dr. Weld examined Ferdie for about three hours on October 31, 1988, a Monday.
This was the same day that Ferdie would have faced Judge Keenan for his arraignment. Instead, he had a judicially mandated doctor’s appointment.
Let me quote verbatim from some observations noted by Dr. Weld in his November 2 report to the New York US Attorney’s Office:
Muscle/nerve disease: ---- “…..chronic disabilities of a moderate degree, and have not to date inhibited Mr. Marcos from engaging in activity of normal living.” ... “His weight has remained stable over the past years, suggesting no progressive loss of muscle mass.”
Kidneys: --- “His kidney function is satisfactory at the present time,” noting the 1983 and 1984 transplantations.
Heart failure: --- “…..consistent with unrestricted physical activity in the course of normal daily activity...there were no data to suggest an adverse cardiac response to stress testing.”
High blood pressure: --- “……blood pressure to be 124/60, which is normal”…. “His physicians indicated to me that high blood pressure has not been a significant problem since his successful kidney transplantation” ….. “his blood pressure response on stress testing did not show abnormal elevations.”
Folks, let us not draw conclusions. Yet. That is the task of Dr. Weld. “Marcos’ Medical Maneuvers” is a phrase I forged for storytelling purposes, based on facts from Dr. Weld.
More next week.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
His e-mail is: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.