Gloria E. Melencio, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2005-09-16 03:00

MANILA, 16 September 2005 — Former first lady Imelda Marcos yesterday asked a local court to stop the government from selling jewels seized from her in 1986 as experts from auction house Christie’s arrived in Manila to inspect the collection.

The “Roumeliotes collection,” named after Greek national Demetriou Roumeliotes, a friend of the Marcos family, includes a 30-carat diamond-studded bracelet crafted by Italian jewelers Bulgari.

The jewels, part of a collection with a projected value of $10 million, according to government estimates, were seized in March 1986 a month after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was forced into exile by the military-backed popular revolt.

They were inside a package addressed to Imelda Marcos, but Roumeliotes denied that she owned them and later said they were fakes — a claim both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have refuted.

In a petition she filed with the court, Mrs. Marcos sought to restrain the government from selling or disposing the collection, arguing that when the Bureau of Customs seized the jewels it “did not make a real finding on who the real owner was.”

“The jewelry was taken out of Malacañang presidential palace without the knowledge, much less the consent of the petitioner between the period of Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, 1986,” her petition said.

“These are all mine,” said Mrs. Marcos, 76, who faces dozens of criminal and civil cases over her late husband’s 20-year rule.

“Please stop this. This is too much repression,” she said.

She said it was ridiculous for the government to suggest that she was welcome to buy back the jewelry at auction.

Two prior attempts to sell the collections fell through because of court cases, bureaucratic red tape and disputes over a venue for the auction.

In 1996, Christie’s and Sotheby’s valued the Hawaii collection at $2-$2.5 million.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), an agency tasked with recovering wealth stolen by the Marcos family, said the jewels were state-owned and should be sold to boost government coffers.

“I am determined to have the jewelry auctioned because the government needs the money and it’s time the jewelry is finally disposed off,” said PCGG commissioner Ricardo Abcede.

“They’re amazing,” Abcede said of about 400 gem-studded tiaras, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches and other items from the collections shown to the media at the central bank building, where they are kept in a vault.

Christie’s representatives are due to meet government officials next week about making an initial bid to host the sale of the three Marcos collections, including one seized in Hawaii.

Abcede said Mrs. Marcos had no claim to the Hawaii set after she signed an agreement with the US government in 1991 giving it to the Philippines in exchange for the dropping of two racketeering cases against her in Honolulu.

He said Mrs. Marcos had previously denied knowing the Greek citizen caught at Manila airport and had not claimed that collection of jewelry. The government, through the PCGG, raised about 350 million pesos ($6.2 million) in 1992 when Christie’s auctioned antiques, paintings and silverware confiscated from the Marcoses.

Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, with the country under martial law dictatorship for much of that time. Tens of thousands of dissenters went missing or were murdered, while the family is believed to have looted state funds of up to $10 billion, according to some estimates.

Of the total, the government has so far only recovered $680 million deposited by the Marcos family in Swiss Banks. (Additional input from agencies)

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