Philippines loses bid to recover millions from estate of former dictator Marcos

A Philippine court sentenced Imelda Marcos to at least six years in prison for each of the seven charges that the family funnelled roughly $200 million of embezzled funds through Swiss foundations decades ago. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 October 2019

Philippines loses bid to recover millions from estate of former dictator Marcos

  • The evidence was mostly poor quality photocopies
  • A bloodless “people power” revolt caused Marcos to seek exile in US in 1986

MANILA: The Philippine government has lost a decades-old legal effort to seize millions of dollars from the estate of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a court said Friday, accusing state prosecutors of failing to produce admissible evidence.
Lawyers had submitted “defective” evidence consisting mostly of poor-quality photocopies, some of which were no longer readable, Justice Alex Quiroz of a special anti-graft court said in a release of the October 14 decision.
The ruling was another blow to efforts to recover the late dictator’s alleged ill-gotten wealth after the court also ruled in favor of Marcos’s estate on another multi-million-dollar case in September.
After a bloodless “people power” revolt chased Marcos into US exile in 1986, the Philippines launched a global bid to recover at least $10 billion in assets that the Marcoses and their cronies acquired using funds allegedly stolen from state coffers over his 20-year rule.
It has recovered 172.6 billion pesos ($3.4 billion at current market rates) so far, according to the government agency tasked with tracking down the assets.
A lawyer for the Marcos family declined to comment, while President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said his government does not interfere with the courts.
The office of the Ombudsman that handles hidden wealth cases did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
About a dozen forfeiture cases against the Marcoses have yet to be resolved.
The heirs returned to the Philippines after the patriarch died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, later getting themselves elected to congressional seats and local posts.
Rodrigo Duterte’s election in 2016 cemented their comeback as the government gave the ex-president’s remains a hero’s burial and publicly floated the idea of winding down the hunt for his hidden wealth.
“We all know that the Duterte government is very hospitable, to say the least, to the Marcoses,” said Bonifacio Ilagan, one of thousands imprisoned during the dictator’s rule and now spokesman of a citizens coalition seeking to prevent the Marcoses from regaining the Philippine presidency.
In a rare legal setback last year, a court sentenced Imelda Marcos to at least six years in prison for each of the seven charges that the family funnelled roughly $200 million of embezzled funds through Swiss foundations decades ago.
However, she remains free on bail after filing an appeal with the Supreme Court.


India’s coronavirus lockdown exposes millions to hunger, homelessness

Hordes of migrant workers scrambling for transport to their villages at Anand Vihar bus station in New Delhi. Many, unable to get seats, walk on foot. (AN photo)
Updated 31 March 2020

India’s coronavirus lockdown exposes millions to hunger, homelessness

  • According to media reports, at least 22 workers have already died while trying to make their way back home

PATNA: Kavita and her two-year-old son are walking along a national highway from the suburbs of New Delhi to their home in Kannauj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, some 450 km away.
 She is not alone. Thousands of other migrant laborers have also embarked on long journeys to return to their hometowns across India.
“Our sustenance was dependent on the daily wages me and my husband were earning. Once the factory shut down after the announcement of the lockdown, there was no other option but to head home,” said the 30-year-old who was employed at a shoe manufacture in Noida, on the outskirts of the capital.
The unprecedented migration follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which came into effect on March 25, rendering many daily-wage workers jobless and homeless as businesses shut down.
“The government announced the lockdown suddenly and did not plan how poor people like us would survive such an extreme measure without any support,” Kavita told Arab News.
Most of them have no other option but to travel on foot. While some buses are still operating, very few are lucky to get a seat. The railways have been suspended until at least April 14.
Ranveer Singh, who was walking home from Delhi to Morena in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, died of exhaustion on Friday, 100 km from his destination.
The 38-year-old father of three worked as a delivery boy in Delhi and he was left on his own when the lockdown started.
“My father was desperate to return. Circumstances were such that he could not stay in Delhi,” Singh’s 13-year-old daughter Pinky told Arab News.
According to media reports, at least 22 workers have already died while trying to make their way back home.
“The Modi regime is responsible and culpable for this. This is not incompetence, this is criminal neglect,” Delhi-based lawyer and activist, Vrinda Grover, said.
According to government data, at least 40 million people have been working away from their hometowns in different places across India. Most of them come from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Situation of migrant laborers is ‘under control,’ says Home Ministry.

• 40 million people have been working away from their hometowns in different places across India.

To stop the current exodus, the central government on Sunday asked state administrations to seal their borders and provide food and shelter to make migrant workers stay where they are. Those who return to their homes should be quarantined for 14 days.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi justified the tough decision and apologized for “the hardship faced by people.”
“But looking at the world, this looks like the only option,” he said on Sunday.
According to Dr. Arvind Kumar, of Delhi-based Sir Gangaram Hospital, the lockdown is “an emergency measure and it should be followed strictly. Mixing of the population raises the fear of the escalation of virus.”
But how the measures have been introduced has attracted criticism.
“The way things have been managed, with thousands of migrant workers allowed to migrate to their areas, defeats the whole purpose of the lockdown,” social activist, Harsh Mander, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava told reporters on Monday that the situation of migrant laborers was “under control.”
“We are working on providing all the facilities to the workers at a war-footing level,” she said.
Many argue, however, that neither control nor clear policy have been in place.  
According to Prof. Apoorvanand, of the University of Delhi, the government’s planning and the prime minister’s recent speeches are “aimed at assuaging the sentiments of the middle class.”
“It demonstrates the policy mindset and the conscience of the government, which does not count the marginalized sections of the society even at the time of national crisis,” he said.
“This also shows sheer incompetence and lack of foresight and policy on the part of the government before announcing the lockdown.”