MANILA , MAY 25, 2010
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang gave assurance yesterday that transactions connected to the sale of seized Marcos jewelry would be transparent.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar was responding to questions on why the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was rushing the sale of jewelry confiscated from former first lady Imelda Marcos in 1986.

Olivar said the Palace is inviting the public and other concerned sectors to monitor the sale or auction of the jewelry.

An expert from the London-based Christie’s auction house will reportedly meet with PCGG and Finance officials today to discuss the possible auction of the Marcos jewelry.

“Some are asking why this (auction) is being done in a hurry but people forget that this (recovery of ill-gotten wealth) began in 1986 and the very objective of the PCGG is precisely to liquidate these alleged ill-gotten wealth in order for the proceeds to become available for the use of government, including possible victims or claimants under the Marcos regime, and not let it be frozen in banks,” Olivar told a news briefing.

“There are two things instead that we could positively do in connection with process: Let’s watch whether the process of transferring the wealth would be transparent and whether the terms of settlement would be transparent, fair and equitable,” he said.

Olivar said the disposition of the proceeds of settlement also ought to be monitored.

He said the public should support the transparent transactions of the PCGG and the Department of Finance (DOF) “because the objective was to return the Marcos wealth to the country.”

PCGG: Not a midnight sale

PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede, who handles asset management, said the agency is determined to auction off the Marcos jewelry before President Arroyo’s term ends on June 30 and argued that “this is not a midnight sale.”

Abcede said Christie’s is sending Raymond Sancroft-Baker, a European jewelry collector, to discuss the auction details with PCGG and Finance officials.

He said they expect other major auction houses like Sotheby’s and Bonhams to make offers to appraise and auction off the jewels.

“This will be a very important meeting. We will be learning a lot from him. He will also be learning a lot from us about the jewels,” he said.

The Marcos jewels are estimated to be worth over P15 billion based on the appraisal made in 2005.

“Having only a short time left is not an excuse to be idle. In fact, it should push you to hurry and accomplish whatever you can,” he said. “I want this all sold. This is not just hype.”

Abcede said proceeds from the auction will be diverted to the Treasury.

“It will benefit both the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. We will be able to lessen the huge deficit. All the money we will earn will go into the Treasury anyway,” he said.

Abcede said that he had pursued the effort since 2005 and followed it up through the years with persistent and dogged coordination efforts with the DOF and the Bureau of Customs until certain legal questions and impediments were cleared and answered.

He said that it was only last year when the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General had cleared legal questions that remained on the auction of two of the three collections.

Abcede stressed that there were possible legal obstacles that could be thrown on the disposal of the Malacañang collection though he said that this could also be addressed.

The confiscated jewelry of Mrs. Marcos, who recently won a congressional seat in Ilocos Norte, is divided into three collections, namely the Hawaii, the Roumeliotes and the Malacañang collection.

The Malacañang collection is made up of the jewelry left by the Marcoses in the Palace when they fled from the country at the height of the EDSA People Power revolt in February 1986.

The Hawaii collection was seized from Mrs. Marcos by Customs authorities when the family arrived there after escaping from the country.

The Roumeliotes collection includes jewels seized from a Greek courier of the Marcoses who attempted to smuggle a portion of the Marcos jewels out of the country in 1986.

Abcede said that if Mrs. Marcos will take legal action to stop the auction, she could only stop, at the most, the auction of the Malacañang collection.

“We can go ahead with the two and proceed with the third at a later date,” he said, stressing that he was only carrying his mandate.

“I’m just doing my job. I’m convinced that this is the right thing to do. We’re not rushing this,” Abcede said.

He said they may be able to hold the public display of the jewelry within the week.

“What is wrong with disposing of these (jewelry)? They have been non-performing assets for several years and it’s time that we dispose of them so we can raise funds for the government and reduce our huge budget deficit,” he said. – Rainier Allan Ronda

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved