MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had offered to return to the government some of the family's disputed wealth, including "a few gold bars".
Marcos and his wife Imelda were accused of plundering about US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) from state coffers in 20 years in power. A bloodless "People Power" uprising in 1986 chased the family into US exile.
The government announced last month that Mr Duterte, a Marcos ally, may abolish a government agency that has recovered some 170 billion pesos (S$4.5 billion) from Marcos and his family.
But Mr Duterte said in a speech to government officials on Tuesday: "They (the Marcos family) told me they'll open everything, and probably return what is uncovered." He did not name the Marcos family member who had approached him, the total being offered or the terms attached to it.
The family member had told Mr Duterte "we are ready to open and bring (it) back ... including a few gold bars", according to the Philippine President, but the amount involved was "not Fort Knox".
The Marcos family fortune
The Marcos family allegedly amassed up to US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) during the dictator's 20 years in power.
Last year, the Presidential Commission on Good Government, established by the Philippine government to track down the Marcos family fortune, recovered a total of 170 billion pesos (S$4.5 billion) - from Swiss bank deposits, shares, real estate, paintings and jewellery.
Among the seized assets, three jewellery collections allegedly owned by Imelda Marcos had been estimated by auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's to be worth more than 1 billion pesos.
The commission described the jewels as "diamond-studded tiaras, necklaces, brooches, earrings, belts and other gems".
About 300 pieces of jewellery in one of the collections, including an "extremely rare" 25-carat pink diamond worth an estimated US$5 million, will be put up for auction, the commission announced last year.
The commission also launched a website to help recover artworks believed to have been obtained through the Marcos family's ill-gotten wealth.
Some of them included pieces by artists such as Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas and Rene Magritte.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Fort Knox is a vault that stores United States gold reserves.
Mr Duterte said he would accept the Marcos offer and was looking to appoint a retired justice of the Philippine Supreme Court to negotiate with the family on the government's behalf.
The President's announcement was the latest development in the remarkable political rehabilitation of the Marcos clan.
The family of the dictator - who died in Hawaii exile in 1989 - has been making a political comeback in the Philippines, with his widow Imelda and their children getting elected to office.
No member of the Marcos family went to prison despite the government's recovery of some of its fortune through litigation and out-of-court settlements.
Mr Duterte has openly supported the Marcos family, cheering on the Marcos son, Ferdinand Jr, in his failed bid for the vice-presidency last year. The Marcos family is known to be grooming him for the presidency as well, and the son is challenging the result of the vice-presidential vote in court in a fight that could put him in the country's second-highest office.
Mr Duterte stunned the nation in November last year by allowing the body of the late dictator to be buried in the national "Heroes' Cemetery" despite a widespread outcry that his abuses and corruption ruled him out for such an honour.
Imelda denies the family's wealth is ill-gotten and at times has said her late husband recovered the treasure of Japan's World War II general Tomoyuki Yamashita that was looted from across South-east Asia.