Friday, 28 May 2010

Arroyo leaves successor to deal with Imelda Marcos jewels

M. Gonzalez & Z. Solmerin
Business Mirror

PRESIDENT Arroyo on Thursday stopped the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) from pursuing the auction of the jewelry collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, as she would rather let her successor deal with the matter.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said in a statement that the President made the decision as “time has run out” for the disposition of the assets under her administration.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered the Presidential Commission on Good Government to hold off any further moves leading to the auction of the jewelry of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. . . .President Arroyo is now leaving it to her successor to decide on the final disposition of the Imelda Marcos jewelry,” Mendoza said.

He said he conveyed the President’s directive to PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede. Mendoza said that while the PCGG has gained “much headway” in auctioning off the jewelry collection, Malacañang believes that “time has run out on the process, and is best left to the incoming administration.”

Abcede had consistently expressed his intent to realize the sale of the jewelry collection despite criticisms about the propriety of doing so with barely a month before the end of the Arroyo administration. The PCGG official had said that he would like to see through the transaction, considering all the preparations he had made.

This had put him on a collision course with other commissioners who did not want to rush the sale.

On Wednesday commission information chief Nicanor Zuares said Abcede was at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas at around 1 p.m. with a representative from Christie’s. “[As] per information by Commissioner Abcede, he would be at the BSP cash department at 1 p.m. today together with Christie’s auction-house representative [Raymond] Sancroft-Baker. Mr. Baker will start appraising the Roumeliotes collection after representatives of the Bureau of Customs [BOC], PCGG, Office of the President and Commission on Audit [COA] retrieve the jewelry sets from the vault of the BSP and brought to a room for appraisal and inventory.”

On Tuesday PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio, with members Narciso Nario, Tereso Javier and Jaime Bautista, slammed Abcede for acting on his own to have the fortune appraised for purposes of bidding the jewelry collections. They wanted the next administration to do it if it so decides to avoid speculations of “midnight transactions.”

This pushed the commission en banc to pass a resolution on the issue, but Abcede would not hear from his colleagues.

Suarez said Abcede also informed him that a gemologist from another auction house—Sotheby’s—will arrive on May 27 to likewise appraise the “sets of jewelry [he] said that by Friday, all appraisals would be completed, after which a final meeting with the Department of Finance, COA, BOC and PCGG would be held.”

Abcede knows the commission en banc’s position—“It is true that the PCGG has yet to pass a resolution authorizing the sale of the Marcos jewels, just as it is true that I have been spreading myself thin working at breakneck speed paving the way for the much-delayed sale to finally take place.”

“It is true that in a collegial body such as the PCGG, plurality of opinion, rather than sheepish unanimity, is more the rule than the exception. If some colleagues of mine in the PCGG think it’s too soon to convert those billion-peso jewels into cash, more than 20 years after they had been confiscated by the government, I’ll just have to say I am of a different stripe than they,” he added.

“If the PCGG thinks the Arroyo presidency should await the presidency of Noynoy Aquino before taking steps to auction off the jewels, then the PCGG will hear a loud—and yes, disrespectful—NO! from me, the next time we meet en banc,” he said in clear defiance of all objections.

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