LAST week, in the course of a rambling speech, President Rodrigo Duterte tested public reaction by announcing that a spokesman for the Marcos family has offered to return part of the Marcos gold (or loot, if you will) to the government.
The response, as expected, ranged from very angry to sad to perplexed.
“What? And you expect us to forgive the Marcoses that easily?”
“No way! It has to be all or nothing. And the Marcoses have to first ask forgiveness.”
“This cannot be done legally. A Supreme Court decision forbids it.”
“This is a prelude to the Bongbong’s installation as vice president.”
Asked by media, Imee Marcos neither confirmed nor denied any offer was made. But she expressed confidence that President Duterte was in a position to resolve the decades-old issue.
To date, the PCGG, which has been tasked to recover the Marcos billions, has so far accounted for only a fraction thereof. The reported Marcos wealth stashed abroad was estimated at 10 billion dollars at 1986 values. Analysts believe that those assets are considerably worth much more today.
What prodded President Duterte to make what – at first glance - appears to be a straight-from-the-lip announcement?
Perhaps, he was just giving vent to his frustration. Perhaps he was just being impatient. Perhaps he was being practical.
Perhaps to his mind, we cannot afford to wait another 30 years to recover another tenth of the Marcos billions. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush. The earlier decision of this administration to accept the compromise tax offer of Mighty Corporation reflects Duterte’s pragmatism.
Aside from Duterte’s practical approach, let me venture a guess as to what made President Duterte do it.
I believe that President Duterte knows something that we ordinary mortals do not know.
If there is one thing which distinguishes Duterte from other Filipino leaders, I’d say he has very strong instincts and he follows them. He is a classic instinctive decision-maker.
Case in point. During the last election, he was the only candidate who correctly focused on an issue which really appealed to a broader base -- the perils and evil of drug addiction.
Second case in point. – He detected, ahead of any one of us, a tectonic shift in public attitude toward the issue of the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Public opinion polls in the mid 90s indicated a 9 to 1 ratio of those who disapproved of the burial. Later polls, showed the disapprovals diminishing, albeit gradually.
But guess what? Another survey conducted late last year – not by the more popular SWS and Pulse Asia – showed a dramatic reversal. The online survey used a sample size of 16,000, (13 times normal).
Those who are very much against the burial (and that includes this writer) constituted only 20 per cent of those polled!
Those who vehemently and steadfastly disagreed were those who were either directly or indirectly affected by the martial law regime. But those who were not (read that as millennials) couldn’t care less.
I personally am against an unconditional return of part or all of the Marcos wealth.
I am just sad that I belong to the increasingly shrinking group of Filipinos who think so.
President Duterte, the instinctive decision-maker, also knows that our numbers are dwindling. And that would be definitely impact on his decision process.
Trillanes versus the Senate
Even inside the senate hall, Antonio Trillanes’ rebellious streak manifests itself every now and then. Fortunately, they have been limited to shouting matches against fellow senators.
I don’t quite recall anymore what was the casus belli in previous altercations with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Mgz Zubiri, and Tito Sotto . But I do recall that Trillanes walked out while Enrile was interpellating him.
Trillanes’ latest tiff occurred just last week and this time, he traded insults with Dick Gordon during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the Bureau of Customs.
This prompted the latter to file an ethics complaint against Trillanes.
Knock on wood. I hope future incidents do not degenerate into fisticuffs and scuffles which every now and then erupt in the parliaments of some of our Asian neighbors.
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