MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has given the greenlight to auction off for public benefit P704.8-million worth of jewelry of former first lady Imelda Marcos seized at the downfall of her late husband Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorial regime in 1986.
"Sabi ni presidente kagabi na payag ang presidente na makinabang ang taumbayan doon sa mga jewelry. So tinanong ko siya, "are you going to give the go-signal," sabi niya 'yes'," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters in Japan, where the President is currently on a working visit.
(The president said last night he has agreed that the public should benefit from the jewelry. So I asked him, "are you going to give the go-signal," he said 'yes.')
"Basta ang kailangan makarating sa taong bayan 'yung sale, 'yung proceeds," Panelo said.
(What's important is that the sales or proceeds benefit the public.)
Asked when the President is expected to sign the order for the auction, Panelo responded: "Depende na sa kaniya basta (it depends on him but) he agrees with it."
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier said in a report that the public auction of Marcos' jewelry collections only needed the President's approval.
In a letter dated Sep. 7, 2018, the PCGG wrote to the Office of the Executive Secretary, COA, and Department of Finance for guidance and approval of the auction of Marcos’ jewelry collections namely:
- The Malacañan Collection, retrieved in Malacanang after the EDSA Revolution in 1986
- The Roumeliotes Collection, seized and forfeited by the Bureau of Customs from Demetrious Roumeliotes, a Greek national and alleged associate of Marcos, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 1986
- The Hawaii (Honolulu) Collection, confiscated by the United States government from the Marcoses in Hawaii in 1986
"In relation to this, we are respectfully requesting for approval from your offices to proceed with all activities preparatory to disposition, including allowing the above-mentioned auctioneers access to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) vaults to perform appraisal," the letter read.
The 3 jewelry collections of the former first lady, the outgoing Ilocos Norte representative, were valued at P1 billion at a re-appraisal by auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's in February 2017.
Christie's earlier described Marcos' jewelry collections as fit for royalty as it includes Indian diamonds, Burmese rubies and Colombian emeralds.
Among the jewels was a rare 25-carat pink diamond estimated to be worth $5 million.
The late dictator's family was known for living a lavish life during his strongman rule, with billions in ill-gotten wealth yet to be recovered 33 years since the end of his regime.
In November last year, the former first lady was convicted of graft for funneling public funds to overseas bank accounts during her husband's regime. She is out on a P150,000 bail while appealing the ruling.
Her daughter Imee, the outgoing Ilocos Norte governor, just won a Senate seat in the recent elections despite questioned credentials.
- with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News