This is a special seed of The Gardener’s Tales
NOTES IN FORM OF A SELECT CHRONOLOGY AS HELP IN ESTIMATING THE MARCOS WEALTH AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT IN THESE TIMES OF UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY
Jose “Joey” L. Cuisia took over from Jobo as CB governor, on Jobo Fernandez’ recommendation (affinity group of Far East Bank, AIG, Philamlife etc.). During hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Banks he refused to answer Senators Alberto Romulo and Rene Saguisag how much the country owed its top thirty lenders. On further questioning, he admitted that not even the president (Cory), much less the cabinet, was informed about certain details of the foreign debt. The finding by a government-commissioned UN study that the Central Bank was bankrupt had been kept from the president by NEDA and the Dept. of Finance. It was disgruntled employees at NEDA that leaked the information to the press.
March 27, 1990
Another gold deal surfaced. Threatened with a hold order form the PCGG that would not allow him to leave the country, British national Geoffrey Greenlees admitted he was arranging a purchase of gold and produced a three-page Memorandum which called for Preliminary purchase Agreement involving not 2,000 metric tons but “1000 m/t rolling over up to 190000 M/T (AU). He said the deal was initiated in Manila when a lady, Margaret Tucker, introduced him to a Filipino attorney, Victor Santos, who represented the sellers. The name Margaret Tucker grabbed the government’s full attention. That was the alias used in Europe by Edna Camcam, girlfriend of Fabian Ver.
December 21, 1990
The Swiss Federal Tribunal (i.e., Supreme Court) affirmed the sequestration request of 7. All bank accounts identified as belonging to Marcos or Imelda remained frozen. With accumulated interest, the account originally identified by Operation Big Bird amounted to a total of $356 million.
PCGG’s David Castro announced that 325 metric tons of gold valued at $3.5 billion, which had been smuggled out of the Philippines by Marcos, had been found in Switzerland. The bars bore the Central Bank of the Philippines hallmark and were kept in the storage vault of a bonded warehouse managed by Union Bank at the J.M. Kloten airport near Zurich.
The gold was in vault number 88-RW-RP and the account number was G-72570367-d-UBS.
Later Castro produced documents showing the serial numbers of gold bars which were released by the Central Bank’s minting plant for shipment in 1983 and 1984. These bars were not part of the Central Bank’s official inventory. He showed a copy of the receipt for the bars signed by Tomas Rodriguez, operations manager of Tamaraw Security Agency. Tamaraw was owned by Ver. Castro also said he had interviewed one of the pilots who flew the bars to Switzerland after Ninoy was murdered in 1983.
November 04, 1991
Today, a Sunday, the circus came to town. The Swiss Federal Tribunal had ruled the year before that the Philippine government must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, especially due process. There had to be a lawsuit filed within one year. Thus, the solicitor general’s office filed all sorts of cases against Imelda, and the government had to allow her to return to answer the charges.
“I come home penniless,” she tearfully said on arrival. She then repaired to her suite at the Philippine Plaza Hotel which cost $2,000 a day and rented sixty rooms for her entourage – American lawyers, American security guards and American PR firms.
The Central Bank had accumulated losses of Php324 billion in the Special Accounts.
June 26, 1992
Imelda and Bongbong on the one hand and PCGG’s Castro on the other hand, after a 12-hour marathon session, signed a main agreement and two sub-agreements on the Marcos wealth and the government’s prosecution of the Marcos estate – agreements that were rejected by Magtanggol Gunigundo a few days later after the latter took over the PCGG from Castro.
November 30, 1992
The Central Bank (< http://prsi.homepage.com/cb.html >) losses were Php561 billion and climbing. Cuisia asked that the CB be restructured. Sen. Romulo asked to see the 1983 audit of the international reserves. He couldn’t get a copy. It was “restricted”.
January 05, 1993
Imelda didn’t show up for the scheduled signing of a new PCGG agreement. She kept vacillating on the terms and conditions – demanding she be allowed to travel abroad for thirty-three days to confer with bank officials in Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong and Morocco to work out the transfer of the frozen funds.
Actually she was hoping a guy she had authorized, J.T.Calderon, would be able to move the funds just as the order was lifted, before the government had a chance to transfer them to Manila.
When the government discovered the authority, all negotiations with Imelda were halted and her requests for travel suspended.
June 14, 1993
R.A.7653 created the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The old CB became the CB-Board of Liquidators in order to wind up its affairs. The new BSP assumed only PhP 280.8 billion of the old CB’s total liabilities of PhP 612 billion.
As part of its “cleansing the books”, BSP wrote off its recorded investment of $7.0 million in Triad Asia Limited. This was placed as time deposit in 1985, was allegedly transferred to National Commercial Bank of Jeddah but remained unconfirmed by the latter since 1986. The BSP’s loss in International Reserves in this investment was $8,640,243.69.
August 10, 1993
Georges Philippe, a Swiss lawyer of Imelda, wrote today a confidential letter to the Marcoses’ old Swiss lawyer, Bruno de Preux, who handled almost all of the Marcos family’s hidden accounts in Switzerland. Philippe requested de Preux for the status of:
A $750 million account with United Mizrahi Bank in Zurich;
Various currency and gold deposits at the Union Bank of Switzerland, at Kloten airport and at Credit Suisse;
A $356 million account (now in escrow and worth almost $600 million) which was being claimed by the PCGG.
The human rights jury awarded the victims $1.2 billion in exemplary damages, then $766.4 million in compensatory damages a year after that, for a total of $1.964 billion. Two days after, another $7.3 million was awarded to twenty-one Filipinos in a separate lawsuit.
The US Supreme Court upheld the $1.2 billion judgment.
March 29, 1995
The Swiss Parliament passed a law (an amendment to a previous act) that removed the need for a final judgment of criminal conviction of the accused (such as the Marcoses) in the case of criminally acquired assets which could now therefore be returned to claimants (such as the Philippine government) by Swiss court order.
August 14, 1995
The PCGG, through Chair Magtanggol Gunigundo, and the PNB, through trust officer Jose V. Ferro, entered into a so-called ‘escrow agreement’ in anticipation of a possible order by Zurich District Attorney Peter Cosandey to transfer the Marcos Swiss deposits to be held in escrow in the Philippines. This transfer was now deemed possible on account of the March 29, 1995 Swiss Parliament act.
The escrow agreement, however, appeared irregular in the view of former PCGG Chair Jovito R. Salonga in that there was no actual deposit of funds, stock or personal property. Without an escrow deposit in an escrow account to be held by the depositor in the PNB, there can be no escrow agreement to talk about, Salonga opined. In fact, the so-called escrow agreement stated in Section 1: “Certain funds (the Escrow Funds) will be delivered and deposited in accordance with an order by Examining Magistrate Peter Cosandey…into an account of the Escrow Agent.” This made the agreement, at best, a pre-escrow agreement similar to a pre-incorporation agreement entered into in anticipation of a future delivery and deposit of escrow funds which did not exist in August 1995.
Salonga emphasized that the escrow was irregular because, supposedly made by the PCGG, the latter was not in control or possession of the Marcos Swiss deposits at the time of the Agreement as it still is not in control or possession of the said funds up to today. This is legally absurd, Salonga said: to make a claimant, not in control of the funds, the source of the escrow deposit.
In part because of the torture of Roger Roxas, $22 billion was awarded to his Golden Budha Corporation.
December 10, 1997
The Swiss Supreme Court promulgated a landmark decision that took into account the March 1995 Swiss Parliament act and the fact that new criminal cases had been filed against Imelda Marcos. The court held that there was no need for any criminal proceeding; that a civil or administrative proceeding would suffice, and the Marcos Swiss deposits which had been “criminally acquired” can be returned to the Philippines in deference to the final judgment of the Philippine court as to the ownership of these deposits.
The Swiss court also announced that the interest and reputation of Switzerland was at stake if it would become a haven for money launderers laundering money obtained by crime. Therefore, in the case of the Marcos deposits, because “the illegal source of the assets in this case cannot be doubted” the Swiss court ordered that the money be returned to the Philippines to be held in escrow account in the PNB to await the judgment of the Sandiganbayan in the forfeiture case.
As columnist Neal H. Cruz accurately put it: “What the PCGG and the PNB should have done, after the receipt of the [Swiss court] landmark decision, was to make sure that: (1) there was a genuine escrow agreement with the funds which the Swiss Supreme Court made available to the Philippines on December 10, 1997; (2) between the Swiss government or its duly authorized representative, on the one hand, (not the PCGG) and the PNB, on the other, inasmuch as the PCGG, a claimant, could not possibly qualify as a depositor of the escrow funds it did not possess, much less control.”
Why did this not happen? The reason, according to Salonga, was that the parties to the irregular escrow agreement were hoping that a previous (December 1993) compromise deal between them and the Marcoses – hatched in secrecy – would be considered valid.
December 09, 1998
The Philippine Supreme Court held that the “compromise settlement” between the PCGG and the Marcoses was illegal and void. The court held that the stipulation to drop the pending criminal cases against the Marcoses was an encroachment on judicial power; that the PCGG had no authority to compromise with the Marcoses, the principals in the ill-gotten wealth cases; and that the PCGG had no competence under the Constitution to grant tax exemption to the Marcos family.
The Marcoses filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court.
May 20, 1999
The Philippine Supreme Court denied with finality the Marcoses’ motion for reconsideration of the December 9, 1998 ruling against the PCGG compromise agreement.
Meanwhile, the new Estrada administration tried to forge a compromise settlement with the Marcoses on the Marcos Swiss deposits supposedly held in escrow in the PNB as the target. All sorts of excuses were invented but to no avail because of the Supreme Court’s final decision.
July 16, 1999
In a seven-page pre-trial brief, the PCGG at long last asked the Sandiganbayan to confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of Bobby Ongpin, the estates of Marcos and Ver, and that of the operators of the Binondo Central Bank (BCB) who “engaged in the buying of millions of US dollars and bringing the same out of the country for deposit in foreign banks, thereby obtaining millions of dollars for themselves and for Marcos to the grave damage and prejudice of the Filipino people.” The PCGG asked the court to let the BCB operators pay PhP51 billion in moral damages for defrauding the Filipino people.
Other defendants include Edna Camcam – Ver’s mistress, and Vinnie James Yu of the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (PASAR) which entered into a joint venture with the HK-based Triad Asia Ltd where millions of dollars were remitted to the damage and prejudice of the government and the Filipino people.
Some $5 to $8 million exchanged hands daily at the BCB, with some $5 million salted away in private jets or regular commercial flights with military escorts, and where, quite often, gold bullion was part of the precious cargo.
In an earlier confession, Bobby Ongpin said that dollars unsold by the Binondo Central Bank were sold to PASAR which in turn sold the excess dollars to the Central Bank. He did not explain why the dollars took the roundabout route that presumably gave PASAR huge profits. Or was this in exchange for the acquisition (by whom?) of the gold and silver side-produced by the PASAR copper smelting plants?
In any case the Chinese Central Bankers were allowed a spread or profit of 20 centavos per dollar traded and Ongpin said that before BCB’s cessation, the participants earned hundreds of millions of pesos in profits. However, he emphasized, he committed no illegal acts. He swears that his scheme added $400 million to the CB foreign exchange reserves and the Filipino people should all be grateful to him for it. For now, anyway, the PCGG does not think so.
Bobby Ongpin, as former minister of Trade and Industry and Chairman of the Board of Directors of National Development Company (NDC) and Vinnie James Yu, as former Assistant General Manager of NDC and Treasurer of the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (PASAR), taking advantage of their positions and in unlawful collaboration with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, entered into a joint venture known as Triad Asia Limited with Triad Holding Corporation, to which the government was obligated to contribute US$500,000 as equity, but Ongpin and Yu actually remitted to Triad Asia Limited, using NDC and PASAR resources, an aggregate of US$10,640,000.
Is Triad Asia Limited in any way connected with the notorious Triads of Hong Kong?
Triads were originally created as secret societies and brotherhoods. The purpose of these societies was to overthrow the unpopular ruler. During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were many new secret Chinese societies founded, but they were not concerned as much in overthrowing the ruler as in terrorizing and robbing the citizens. During the first half of the 20th century, the Triads took root in Hong Kong. These were plain criminal organizations and after the political crackdown in 1956 the Triads became much less structured. The triads spread quickly throughout the Chinese community in Hong Kong. They soon controlled the streets by prostitution, gambling, etc. as they gained more power and made more connections, the Hong Kong Triads grew very strong and could now start with such things as extortion. A lot of people in the police force were also bribed; Chinese as well as English. As time went by new ways of making money appeared, mainly drug trafficking, selling copies of luxury goods and selling private software. The modern Hong Kong Triads just want to make money out of their criminal activities.
Today (as before), the main criminal activities are extortion, drug-handling, loan-sharking credit and card-fraud and video piracy.
And for now, in fact, activist investigators started looking at the origins and nature of Belle Resources Corporation which had been awarded the right to conduct electronic gambling (Bingo!) nationwide and the allegation that this was all BCB money returning home to grow.
July 17, 1999
Following the Supreme Court doctrine, the Sandiganbayan now also denied a motion for the government to enter into a partial compromise settlement of $150 million with human rights victims which, it was hoped by the Estrada administration, would pave the way for the bigger compromise settlement on the balance of the Marcos deposits. As expected, a motion for reconsideration was filed by the parties involved.
August 10, 1999
Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, opened the probe today into the $13.2 billion “I. Arenetta” account and the Marcos gold hoard even as in faraway Switzerland another investigation was about to start – concerning the alleged conspiracy and money laundering activities of Swiss officials in connection with the secret Marcos cash and gold accounts.
The Sandiganbayan threw out with finality the motion for reconsideration on a proposed partial compromise settlement of Marcos moneys in favor of human rights victims.
At the same time, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee discovered that what had been assumed to be true and indisputable, viz. the $590 million (now $602 million) held in escrow in the PNB – is false. The simple truth pointed out by Salonga now became clear: the PCGG, a claimant without any escrow deposit, could not and cannot legally enter into an escrow agreement with the PNB.
Realizing there was no way out, President Estrada also declared with alleged finality that “there is no, and there will not be, any out-of-court settlement with the Marcos family.” The “ball” is now in the solo court of the Sandiganbayan which should finish and decide the forfeiture suit pending before it since 1991!!!!
Or are they waiting for a future forum of constitutional amendments – the only valid forum above settled Supreme Court doctrines? Is the “Concord” or the “Cha-cha” which was never in the mind of Estrada during the campaign for the presidency (in fact he was ostensibly against it) not an inspiration coming from the side of the Marcoses to make the necessary corrections of who or what agency can enter into compromise settlements with them, etc.? Is it any wonder the administration is insisting we believe their claim that their idea of constitution-amending is purely focused on “economic” provisions – ostensibly about allowing foreigners to own land but really to include provisions, first of all, on the most significant economic area in the country, viz. the Marcos wealth?? -end of Part 4-