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.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 17 min 3 sec ago

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.