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Move to abolish Philippine anti-graft agency sparks uproar

The Presidential Commission on Good Government was created in 1986 to retrieve funds swindled by the Marcos family
The logo of the Presidential Commission on Good Government of the Philippines

The logo of the Presidential Commission on Good Government of the Philippines. (Photo: UNTV)

Published: September 13, 2022 10:50 AM GMT

Critics in the Philippines have slammed a move seeking to abolish the anti-graft agency that was tasked to recover billions of dollars of funds stolen by dictator Marcos and his family.

Lawmaker Bienvenido Abante submitted a bill to the parliament to scrap the agency, called Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), on Sept. 12 claiming that the commission has “outlived its usefulness.”

Since 1986, the commission has recovered about US$ 5 billion from the family of current President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and is in a legal battle to retrieve another $2.4 billion.

The commission was formed shortly after dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. fled the country with his family following his ouster in a popular uprising in 1986 that ended more than two decades of iron-fisted rule.

It has been tasked to get back state funds swindled by Marcos, his family members, and relatives in the country or abroad.

The Society of Critical Catholics for the Nation, a Catholic group advocating for clean and honest governance, has criticized the move to abolish the commission as “an attempt to whitewash history.”

The group said the bill is motivated by the son of the former dictator, who seeks to relieve his family from their liability to the Filipino people.

“The bill is politically motivated either to appease the president and his family or for them to escape liability, including to whitewash Philippine history of the corruption his family did during his father’s presidency,” the group’s spokesman Arnold Ochete told UCA News.

Ocheta said the move was “timely” and proved the efforts of the Marcoses and their supporters to revise Philippine history.

“Isn’t it so timely that the PCGG is being questioned now under a Marcos presidency? Of course, he would deny that he’s responsible for this move but it doesn’t take a genius to think this is politically motivated,” Ochete added.

Lawmaker Abante said the commission had run its course and lost its ability to prosecute and prove the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

“If after that long period of time, they failed to establish whether the sequestered assets are ill-gotten or not and who are the owners of these assets, they will not be able to do so even if we would give it another hundred years,” Abante told reporters on Sept. 12.

Abante also said that the commission was created as an “anti-Marcos agency” which was “unfair” for singling out the Marcos family as corrupt.

“It (PCGG) was unfair to begin with because it singles out and presupposes that the wealth of the Marcos family is ill-gotten... Proving it is another issue,” Abante added.

Martial law victim and former lawmaker Etta Rosales, however, said the issue was put to rest by the Philippine Supreme Court in 1998, referring to a court ruling that recognized the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

“The Court said that the recovery of Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth is a matter of national interest because it involves the money of the people,” Rosales told UCA News.

During the 1998 ruling the court forfeited shares of stocks worth billions of pesos in favor of the state when it found out that Marcos created layers of companies to hide their assets, he said.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that over 25 billion pesos worth of Marcos' assets were considered ill-gotten wealth.  

Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in Hawai, United States in 1989. His family then returned to the Philippines and made inroads into politics. The resurgence led to the winning of Marcos, Jr. in the presidential election on May 9.

Human rights defender and staunch Marcos critic Father Flavie Villanueva said the Filipino people represented by their lawmakers must not forget their history of impunity under the regime.

“Our sense of history is very short. We like to see petty thieves being convicted but the worst and callous ones are in public office,” Father Villanueva told UCA News.

UCA News sought comments from the Filipino Catholic bishops on the issue, but none responded until the filing of the report.

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