Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Sen. Richard Gordon's Justice Committee to open inquiry into Marcos wealth. First thing: check out date of deposit in BSP vault of original documents Salonga brought back to Manila in 1986, which, contrary to allegations, were never stolen

I'm so glad that Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice, has decided to open its inquiry into the string of recent successive failures of the PCGG to recover the hidden billions from the Marcoses.  It is time this whole issue of the Marcos wealth is laid bare in the Senate and if anyone could do it,  it's Richard Gordon.

In two successive issues, the Philippine Daily Inquirer bannered the failure of the PCGG to recover a P200 billion forfeiture case against the  Marcoses---THE FOURTH CASE THE PCGG HAS LOST ON THE MARCOS WEALTH. Yesterday's story quoted the Sandiganbayan as stating that "Absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten by the Marcoses, the court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury." The story cited that the graft court "has dismissed a P200-billion forfeiture case against dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his widow and their children DUE TO INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE." (underscoring BOC's) 

Sen. Gordon should begin his Committee inquiry---to which the entire nation would be glued without doubt---by ORDERING THE EXAMINATION OF ALL DOCUMENTS PERTAINING TO THE MARCOS WEALTH ISSUE THAT ARE SUPPOSEDLY IN THE VAULT OF THE BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS. All these documents should be examined by the proper authorities, including the dates when they were deposited in the BSP. 

This is because, according to the PDI story, the Sandiganbayan recently dismissed the government claim to the P200 billion of the Marcoses due to lack of ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. The allegation in this 4th case dismissed by the Sandiganbayan is based, as in previous cases, on the allegation THAT PROSECUTORS SUBMITTED 'MERE COPIES' OF THOSE DOCUMENTS.


The recent story in the Inquirer about the dismissal of this fourth civil case vs. the Marcoses and their cronies is most interesting, as earlier this month, the newspaper had also ran a series on the PCGG's efforts to recover the Marcos stolen wealth. Its third tranche played up all over again the controversy that had involved then PCGG Chair Jovito R. Salonga and the pursuit of the Marcos hidden wealth in the US. 

This story that has refused to die over the decades alleges that the AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS on the Marcos wealth, contained in a valise, were supposedly stolen BY A THIEF while the Salongas and their party were dining in a restaurant in New York City. Salonga and PCGG deputy commissioner Pedro Yap were in NYC to testify in a federal court on the gargantuan Marcos acquisitions in that city.


Senate President Salonga for years took pains to explain in various forums that the stolen documents were actually mere DUPLICATES in the valise held by his longtime associate, PCGG Commissioner Pedro Yap. Salonga also repeatedly stressed that the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS WERE IN ANOTHER VALISE held by his aide-de-camp--- NONE OTHER THAN MY LATE HUSBAND, THEN COL. THELMO CUNANAN.

The latter did not go to the Korean restaurant with the Salongas and Pete Yap after they were dropped off by the Philippine Embassy car. Instead, Col. Cunanan, still in that car, went back to their hotel not far off, CARRYING THE VALISE OF SALONGA ALL ALONG, to check on messages, before heading back to the restaurant. By the time Cunanan got there Pete Yap's valise had been stolen, together with Lydia Salonga's handbag. 

This writer has made it a point in an earlier Facebook article to argue the reliability of then Col. Cunanan as custodian of the valise containing the ORIGINAL documents---because by so doing, I felt I would also establish that those documents  WERE NEVER LOST. I also made it a point to stress that PCGG Chief Salonga had handpicked Col. Cunanan as his aide for that crucial US trip because of the latter's good standing in the Armed Forces---as well as his high degree of intelligence, having bested 4,000 other Filipino applicants for a four-year scholarship at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1961.  Cunanan retired three decades later as a three-star lieutenant general in the AFP. 
I'm stressing the movements in NYC as well as the high intelligence of then PCGG Chair Jovito Salonga's aide, in order to debunk the fairy tale that Salonga lost the valise containing original documents on the Marcos stolen wealth. Lt. Cunanan indeed left the Salonga party in the restaurant and went to the hotel, CARRYING THE BRIEFCASE ASSIGNED TO HIM, WITH THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS INTACT, AND HE RETURNED LATER TO THE RESTAURANT WITH THE VALISE. .
Credit must also be given to then PCGG Chair and one-time Senate President Jovito Salonga, who was one of our most intelligent political officials in his time. A bar-topnotcher, Salonga also topped the senatorial slate at one time, and was equipped with a doctorate in jurisprudence from the prestigious Yale University in the US and author of many books on law and meaningful legislations.
Thus, it was thus entirely conceivable that Mr. Salonga would entrust the valise containing the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS ON THE MARCOS HIDDEN WEALTH TO A MUCH YOUNGER ARMY OFFICER WHOM HE KNEW AS A FRIEND, rather than to his highly respected but aging colleague, Pedro Yap. What was stolen in the restaurant was the valise held by Mr. Yap which contained MERE COPIES of the original documents in the Salonga briefcase. 

In fact, I heard that story of Pete Yap's stolen valise directly from my husband, and I wrote it up in my Inquirer column soon after, in an effort to help clear the air.
It is easy to see why the Marcoses and their cohorts would insist on this fairy tale of the stolen original documents---IT WOULD HELP WEAKEN THE GOVERNMENT'S RECOVERY CASE AGAINST THEM. From what the newspapers tell us, all the documents needed to pin down the Marcoses on the stolen wealth issue are in the Bangko Central ng Pilipinas vault. If this administration is serious about recovering the stolen assets from the Marcoses and returning them to the Filipino people, all it has to do is to assign people of unquestionable integrity to studiously pour over all the documents in the CB vault, and they will have a solid case.
Whatever happened to the original documents that PCGG Chief Salonga brought to the US, which were later deposited in the vault of the then Central Bank of the Philippines? Inasmuch as it's beginning to appear that the Marcoses' interests are being truly pushed, instead of their getting their just desserts,  Sen. Gordon should begin his committee hearing by checking out with the BSP VAULT THE EXACT DATE WHEN PCGG CHAIR JOVITO SALONGA DEPOSITED THOSE DOCUMENTS THERE AFTER HIS PARTY'S RETURN FROM THE US IN 1986. THEN CHECK OUT WHETHER THOSE ORIGINAL PCGG DOCUMENTS ARE STILL IN THE VAULT.