Philippines prepares to auction off jewellery recovered from Marcos family

An official displays some of the confiscated jewellery of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.
An official displays some of the confiscated jewellery of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine authorities pledged on Monday (Feb 15) to auction off as soon as possible millions of dollars' worth of jewellery recovered from late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created to recover the millions stolen by Marcos and his allies, has also launched a website aimed at retrieving hundreds of art masterpieces believed to have been obtained by the Marcos family with "ill-gotten wealth", said commissioner Andrew de Castro.

The renewed effort comes as Ferdinand Marcos's son and namesake takes the lead in the race to win election in May as the country's next vice-president.

Mr De Castro said the authorities hope to auction off most of the jewels before President Benigno Aquino steps down in June and a new president and vice-president take over.

"Regardless of who is in power after June 2016, it is our duty to dispose of the jewellery as soon as possible," he told AFP.

The long-hidden collection, seized in three batches after Marcos was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986, has been cited by critics as proof of how his family enriched itself while the nation sank deeper into poverty during his 20 years in power.

Former first lady Imelda Marcos amassed a huge collection of jewels, valuable art and shoes even as other Marcos relatives and allies gained fortunes, critics have said.

De Castro said appraisals by auction houses put the value of the seized jewellery at more than 1 billion pesos (S$29.5 million).

Although ownership of part of the collection is still being contested by the Marcos family in court, the government is free to sell of the bulk of the jewels, de Castro said.

The PCGG described the jewels as "diamonds-studded tiaras, necklaces, brooches, earrings, belts and other gems (including a) 25-carat pink diamond".

The government is now working to set a date for the public exhibition of the recovered artefacts and their eventual sale.

The commission on Monday also launched a website listing great artworks that the Marcos family are believed to have obtained.

The website, www.missingart.ph includes works by great artists including Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas and Rene Magritte that still have to be recovered.

Mr De Castro said more than 200 artworks are still missing and the website is intended to help in their recovery as well as to increase "awareness" of the family's crimes.

The government estimates that Marcos and his allies stole about $10 billion when he was in power. The PCGG has recovered less than half of that, de Castro said.

The son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Junior, is running for vice-president, raising fears the family will regain its influence.