Particularly painful is the fact that former Secretary of Justice Estelito Mendoza, the late former president’s ablest and most trusted lawyer, is the one telling Bongbong, on behalf of Mr. Tan, that he has no valid claim.
There appears to be a similar effort to “recover” from Gilberto Duavit, a former Malacanang official, purported Marcos shares in GMA Channel 7, which used to be owned by Bob Stewart, an American citizen, before martial law closed it down. Duavit became its principal “owner” when it finally reopened; but it was never adequately reported how Stewart lost it to Duavit.
There could be a few more such cases.
Why do we find these sad? Because not everyone accepts the caricature of Marcos drawn by his political enemies, yet these stories tend to confirm their claim that he spent his presidency piling up so much hidden wealth, which he put in the hands of his cronies.
For as long as Marcos lived, he vehemently denied such charges. He broke with the Lopezes while Fernando Lopez was his Vice President after the Lopez-owned Manila Chronicle started running a daily editorial cartoon which satirically suggested that he owned almost everything in the Philippines. In 1973, Lopez’s position as Vice President was formally deleted from the Constitution.
One expected the Marcos heirs to be particularly sensitive to this issue. But in publicizing their claim to hidden assets supposedly owned by Marcos, they unwittingly relegated his reputation to the background. Of course, it remains to be shown in court whether the wealth in question was legally acquired or ill-gotten, but history rarely relies on the courts when judging eminent men. This is what truly saddens.
In 1969, I joined the Marcos Cabinet at the ripe old age of 29. For ten years, I served Marcos at close range. His brilliant mind and extraordinary political will captured my imagination, as they did most of the nation’s. He bested all his adversaries in their own game, and for all the attacks that he took, he stood taller than those who tried to promote their own venal selves by depicting him as evil.
Even Marcos’s old ideological enemies on the Left grudgingly concede it now. A random survey conducted not too long ago among professors and students in the hotbed of anti-Marcos activism before and during martial law rated Marcos as the president who had done the most for the country, bar none. He had a clear and unclouded view of the national purpose, and he fought for it when dealing with friend and foe alike. His resolute defense of the national interest brought him in conflict with the strongest forces, and finally brought him down. But he did not fall because he had become hopelessly corrupt; he became corrupt because he fell.
Once he fell, everything was done to damn him as evil. On their first day, rapacious elements of the new regime carted off valuable jewellery, priceless paintings, works of art, monetary instruments and mountains of cash as spoils of power, and simply assigned their grand theft to the fallen “kleptocrat.” Large vats of “demonstration” caviar and countless invoices and receipts from the most expensive shopping centers abroad mysteriously materialized amid the debris inside the sacked presidential palace, oddly untouched by the surging mob, for the exclusive delectation of the foreign press.
Imelda’s shoes were then put on display in a final condemnation of her profligacy, unmindful of the nameless other women in the rich enclaves of Metro Manila who probably owned as many pairs. And then the deluge of hurriedly written books, by foreigners who knew nothing or next to nothing about Marcos or the Philippines, all in an attempt to inscribe for posterity the reasons why Marcos had to be taken out.
Twenty-one years after the event, some serious scholars seem finally prepared to do an honest reassessment of Marcos, in light of what has since happened to the country, to Southeast Asia, to
The Marcos heirs should be the first ones to see this. They should be the first ones to avoid creating a distraction that could prevent this first sliver of light from breaking through the thick fog of political prejudice and hate.