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Extreme Realities

An American investment banker, who was not named in a report, has


discovered that the late President Ferdinand Marcos has assets in Switzerland
worth $950 billion.
It was Camilo Sabio, chairman of the Presidential Commission on
Good Government who revealed to the media that he had met with this
American lawyer in New York, who is privy to Marcos’ hidden wealth in
Switzerland.
By looking at the figure, any ordinary Filipino citizen cannot imagine
how big a US$950 billion is. Most of us are familiar only with four- or five-
figure peso sign, an amount we receive as income in a given month.
Let’s go back to simple mathematics.
One billion is 1,000 million. Wait, this is not a peso – this is a U.S.
dollar money, thus a one million dollar, at current exchange rate, is more or less
fifty million pesos. And wait, this is not a million figure – this is billion.
What a breathtaking calculation!
Even if you spend P50,000 pesos a day, you won’t run out of money
until you die. And you can even buy a pure gold coffin replete with diamonds,
and yet you still have billions in your bank accounts.
But what struck us most is the question as to how the Marcoses were
able to accumulate such mammoth assets? Did they work hard for it? Were they
involved in some international business investments? Well, your guess is as
good as mine.
Another disturbing fact is the power of greed that is really at work here.
If these assets were indeed existing and owned by the Marcoses, we may ask as
to why they had to pile up such unimaginable wealth? For what? For whom?
Did they expect to live forever on earth that they need to keep this wealth for
personal consumption?
We are only asking questions here, and we don’t expect to get answers
because no one perhaps would be daring enough to disclose the truth.
And we are not accusing the Marcoses. Our inquiries are normal
reaction to Sabio’s revelation. Whether this report is true or not, we can only
shake our heads in disbelief and disgust though we’ve heard in the past of many
tales of Marcos’ wealth being kept in foreign banks.
According to the World Institute for Development Economics
Research, an arm of the United Nations University based in Helsinki, the richest
one percent of the world’s populations owns 40 percent of the total household
wealth in the world.
Most of the wealthiest are living in North America, Europe, and Japan.
Bill Gates of Microsoft is of course one of them.
Now, if we place the Marcoses in the list of the world’s wealthiest, Bill
Gates would appear so small, with his $32 billion assets.
The research firm’s report should have included the Philippines as
home to those who belong to the one percent of the world’s population who
owns 40 percent of the world’s wealth.
On the other hand, it is significant to mention that the UN had said that
40 to 50 percent of the Philippine population are living in extreme poverty.
Poverty is measured, by UN standards, according to income of $2 a day, or a
little over a hundred pesos.
Here we see a gaping disparity between the poor and the rich in our
country, a disparity that has stirred a nationwide climate of discontent and
gloom.
We don’t know how to recover the wealth of the Marcoses. If these
belong to the Republic of the Philippines, then these should be returned to us.
Many of the country’s woes, we just learned, can be remedied by
simply taking back what was stolen from us.

Assets of the late President Ferdinand Marcos worth about $950 billion were discovered
in Switzerland by an American investment banker, the government said yesterday.

Speaking by phone with reporters yesterday, Chairman Camilo Sabio of the Presidential
Commission on Good Government said he and other PCGG officials met with the
American at the office of their US lawyers in New York, but that the banker refused to
discuss the matter on American soil and with fellow American lawyers.

"We met him at our embassy in Berlin so we discussed how to proceed," he said.

Sabio, who recently arrived from Germany, did not identify the American banker, neither
did he say whether the Marcos assets were found in a bank, or whether they included
money, properties or shares in a corporation.

He went to Germany to discuss with a lawyer how the government can recover the newly
discovered Marcos assets, Sabio said.

Last Wednesday, American human rights lawyer Robert Swift announced he had already
initiated recovery efforts on a vast real property worth $100 million in Texas and
Colorado allegedly owned by a Marcos crony.

Swift, US lead counsel for close to 10,000 human rights victims of martial law, and
Filipino co-counsel Rod Domingo, said they had known about the foundation for more
than a year now.

They have closely monitored and gathered evidence on the properties, they added.
The properties in Texas and Colorado, about 4,000 hectares, were purchased by the late
Jose Campos in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the two lawyers said.

Campos is believed to be one of the many fronts allegedly used by the Marcoses in
purchasing or stashing away their hidden wealth.

Swift said they were actively engaged in litigation over these properties.

Swift said based on their assessment, the value of one of the foundations is at $100
million.

The value of the Colorado property has yet to be determined, he added.

Meanwhile, Sabio said their legal counsel Jaime Bautista is now researching on the
revelations, and that the group of Swift and Domingo should help them by providing
documents.

Earlier, Domingo said human rights victims of martial law would be compensated by the
second quarter of next year, with such timeline including the possible motions that the
government, through the PCGG, would make in a last ditch effort to block the awarding.

The court victory would enable allocation of $2,000 to each of the human rights victims,
to be distributed next year through banks, he added.

Close to 10,000 victims of human rights abuses won a landmark decision against the
government over the disputed $35 million worth of assets that the US-based Merrill
Lynch merchant bank is holding for the Marcos estate.

The case involves a $35 million brokerage account with Merrill Lynch in the name of
Arelma, a foundation suspected of serving as a dummy for the late dictator.

The PCGG, which claims that the money rightfully belongs to the Philippine government,
has said it was not against the granting of just compensation to victims of martial law, but
that this should be done by Philippine courts and Congress, where bills to that effect are
now pending.

Hawaii district court Judge Manuel Real awarded a $2 billion judgment to the human
rights victims in a class action suit in 1995.

In 2000, lawyers for the victims filed suit against Merrill Lynch after the discovery of the
$35 million account, claiming the funds on the strength of the 1995 judgment.

The Philippine government joined the lawsuit to claim the money, saying all recovered
ill-gotten Marcos assets should go to the government’s land reform program as stipulated
by law.
Last June, Real ruled that part of the $2 billion award was to be taken from the $35
million Arelma account.

But the money could not be distributed because of the PCGG move to block it.

Meanwhile, the PCGG has until Feb. 1 next year to file its motion for reconsideration
following the recent successive decisions by a United States appellate court awarding
some $35 million of Marcos funds to martial law victims.

"The recent decision of a US court is not yet final. The government has until Feb. 1 to file
its motion for reconsideration," Sabio said.

"We respect international laws but we’re an independent country. We’ve also our own
laws to follow because we’re a sovereign country."

"I think the Philippines should act out of compassion for the plight of the human rights
victims who suffered over the years under the hands of the Marcos regime, and to
acknowledge that it lost in the litigation."

Sabio said the government agreed that the victims must be compensated, but maintained
that the Philippine courts and Congress should determine who would be indemnified.

"That money rightfully belongs to the government," he said. — Sandy Araneta