Marcos Gave FVR Gold Bars--Zobel
By Donna S. Cueto

The Inquirer (October 28, 1999)

HONOLULU--Former President Fidel Ramos, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and a late congressman were each allegedly gifted with $1 million worth of gold bars by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos before he died in 1989.

This is part of the can of worms that businessman Enrique Zobel plans to open during his deposition today before the Senate blue ribbon committee, according to sources close to the tycoon.

In Manila, Ramos immediately rejected the charge. ''I categorically deny this as a falsehood and fabricated. I deny I received any gold bar or a single peso from Mr. Marcos,'' he told the INQUIRER last night.

He added: ''That Zobel statement must be considered and evaluated as totally self-serving and a complete fabrication by Mr. Marcos.''

Apart from Ramos and Enrile, the late Ilocos Sur Rep. Floro Crisologo was allegedly also given gold bars worth a million dollars.

Aside from giving independent confirmation on the Marcos gold, Zobel, 72, is also expected to relate how Marcos accumulated much of his wealth during martial law using contingents of soldiers. Their main function was allegedly to dig up and transport gold and other treasure.

''It must be remembered that Zobel was a close confidante of the Marcoses, not only at the height of their power but also during the dying days of Marcos himself,'' Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said here yesterday.

According to one source, Zobel will also relate how two relatives and officials of former President Corazon Aquino allegedly offered deals in which they wanted a cut of the Marcos wealth.

They are former congressmen Emigdio Tanjuatco and Francisco Sumulong, said the source.

Zobel, a paraplegic after his polo accident in Spain in 1991, is expected to independently confirm the existence of around $35 billion worth of Marcos gold certificates.

Zobel made the estimate in 1992 based alone on the certificates which Marcos showed him in Honolulu in 1988, when the late strongman allegedly tried to borrow $250 million from the businessman to pay the accumulated salaries of Marcos loyalists.

Marcos allegedly showed the gold certificates to prove to Zobel that he could pay back the desired loan.

Zobel's estimate places the Marcoses' wealth much higher than the reported $13.2-billion ''I. Arenetta'' account at the Union Bank of Switzerland.

Zobel's testimony will revolve mostly around events before 1991 and will not touch on the $13.2-billion account, according to former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez.

Senate panelists are scheduled to take the deposition of the wheelchair-bound business magnate at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Philippine consulate here.

Marcos met with Zobel before he became extremely ill. The deposed president allegedly expressed a desire to set up a foundation or trust fund to eventually transfer at least 75 percent of the Marcos wealth to the Filipinos.

Only around 10 percent would remain with the family. Former first lady Imelda Marcos was aghast at the idea and wanted to raise the share to 15 percent, the source said.

The meetings on the foundation were the subject of a series of interviews with Zobel published in the INQUIRER in 1992.

In those interviews, however, he made no mention of Ramos and the other officials receiving the gold bars.

What happened to gold?

Most of the gold bars, and other treasure dug up by the soldiers were allegedly re-minted at the Central Bank.

From 1983 to 1985, Tamaraw Security Services allegedly transported some of the gold bars via Cathay Pacific and American President Lines.

Tamaraw was owned by the late Fabian Ver, Marcos' closest military adviser and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff.

The bars were reportedly shipped to Johnson and Matthiey's, a renowned gold assayer.

The sources said Zobel would talk about how Marcos gave a total of $3 million worth of the gold to Ramos, Enrile and Crisologo. The three, they said, were suspected to have had secret accounts in Swiss banks like the Marcoses.

Ramos was the military vice chief of staff and Enrile, defense minister, when they turned against Marcos in 1986 in the People Power revolt that ousted the late dictator.

Ramos: Enzo misled

The sources did not say why Marcos might have given so much gold to men who had betrayed him.

''Enzo (Zobel's nickname) was just quoting Marcos, not a lawyer or a hearing body. You know how lacking in credibility Marcos had become over the years,'' Ramos said in Manila before leaving on a trip to Bangkok.

''I always considered Mr. Zobel a good friend, an upright citizen and a patriotic Filipino. But this time, he was completely misled by Mr. Marcos who was just using him.,'' he said.

''It must be remembered I fought Marcos during the fading years of his administration, causing his downfall. For this reason, Marcos had no reason to give me gold bars or even one peso,'' said the former president.

''Why did Marcos not tell anyone of his intention to give me gold bars when I was fighting his administration when he was still alive?'' Ramos added.


Before he died, Marcos was sincere about pouring his wealth into a trust foundation to help the Filipino people, the sources quoted Zobel as saying.

There were also officials of the Presidential Commission on Good Government who allegedly approached Zobel regarding a deal to recover the Marcos wealth, offering him a share if he revealed what he knew.

But the PCGG officials all allegedly wanted a cut of any recovered wealth.

Even former PCGG Chair Magtanggol Gunigundo once allegedly offered 5 percent of recovered Marcos assets to Zobel for his cooperation and information on the secret Marcos accounts.

Zobel has a document of the supposed agreement, signed by Ms Marcos--but not by Gunigundo.

European contact

According to the sources, Zobel also has a European contact who holds information on where other Marcos deposits are stored.

This second witness, however, will not be able to testify, although the Senate was originally planning to take the deposition of both Zobel and this witness in Hawaii.

Once Zobel finishes his testimony--other witnesses, including some of the soldiers who supposedly dug up the gold for Marcos in the 1970s--are expected to agree to testify at the Senate hearings.

Chavez yesterday clarified that Zobel was not his witness but a resource person of the Senate.

Still long way off

Pimentel, who arrived here yesterday, said the Senate would pursue any substantial leads supplied by Zobel, particularly on the Marcos gold deposits.

But Pimentel also said that unless Zobel's testimony included the location of the deposits, the Senate would still have a lot of work to do.

If Zobel confirms the gold, the Senate committee will have gathered only 50 to 60 percent of the evidence it needs, according to Pimentel, head of the blue ribbon committee.

''We're just building the database'' on the Marcoses' hidden wealth, Pimentel said.

''Number one, even if Zobel says something about the gold bars, the next question is where are these now? Who keeps the gold certificates or the gold bars?'' he asked.

Pimentel said that, if necessary he would expand the investigation to include other personalities, if doing so would help the senators get to the bottom of the Marcoses' secret wealth.

He said he wanted to build a ''solid'' wall of evidence with which to confront Swiss authorities, enough to pursue the recovery of Marcos assets through diplomatic negotiations.

''The Swiss would become accomplices or co-conspirators (in money laundering) if they continued to deny the existence of these Marcos accounts and gold deposits even if there were solid and corroborating evidence presented to them,'' Pimentel said.

Bad news for Ani

Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez, who also arrived here with Pimentel, yesterday said that happy days were over for Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, who had dismissed at least 27 behest loan cases against the Marcoses and their cronies.

Galvez said a Supreme Court decision overturning the Ombudsman's ruling on one of the cases meant that Desierto could no longer dismiss such cases on a technicality.

Desierto in 1997 and 1998 dismissed most of the behest loan cases on the grounds of prescription--that the government had filed the cases belatedly, or 10 to 15 years after the loans were made.

If it could be proven that Desierto had violated the Constitution, Galvez said, this could lead to his impeachment.

''But this is difficult,'' he added. ''The mere fact that he acted wrongly does not render him culpable, or mean that he acted with malice.''

Chavez fights hotel

Chavez got himself into a near scuffle last night at the hotel here where the senators are billeted. It arose out of the hotel management's strict rules on video interviews of Philippine officials.

The close brawl occurred between Chavez and the assistant manager Joseph Thurber of Ala Moana Hotel.

The hotel management had earlier decided to ban filmed interviews of Philippine officials in and around the hotel premises without the hotel's permission.

Later, it designated a specific area in the hotel for the interviews. ABS-CBN was conducting an interview with Chavez in the hotel lobby at around 8:30 p.m. yesterday when Thurber stopped them and told TV reporter Mon Ilagan about the hotel's ban on interviews.

A heated argument ensued between Chavez and Thurber.

The hotel officer insisted that no interviews should be held in that part of the lobby. Chavez refused to budge and branded the hotel's policy ''undemocratic.''

Thurber threatened to call the police. Chavez dared him to do so, but the hotel official did not.

Chavez then called Thurber an ''asshole'' and challenged him to a boxing match. He also threatened to sue the hotel.

With a report from Armand Nocum


Have You Heard Of Vatican Gold?

The Inquirer (October 29, 1999)

A former Catholic priest here claims to have evidence that the alleged Marcos gold horde is composed of World War II ''Yamashita gold and Vatican gold.''

Ex-priest Marcelino Tagle of Bataan, a former director of Caritas Manila and one of the nation's ''Ten Outstanding Young Men'' in 1967, said in a recent interview that the nation ''should benefit'' from the Marcos gold, which he estimated at ''10 trillion dollars.''

Ten trillion dollars is 10 times more than the gross national product of China in 1998; around 127 times more than the GNP of the Philippines last year; and almost 10 times the combined worth of the world's 200 richest known billionaires in 1999. ''I am ready to substantiate and defend my claims for the benefit of the Filipino people,'' Tagle said when told that his claims were preposterous.

The former priest said he once served as an adviser of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and administrator for the estate of another man whom he claimed was the source of the Marcos gold.

But because Marcos was allegedly able to gain control of the gold certificates and cover the paper trail, according to Tagle, ''it is almost impossible to recover them without piecing the various pieces like a mosaic.''

Tagle said the gold certificates and bullion were deposited in at least 15 countries.

How the Vatican and Yamashita treasure reached the Philippines is a story that, he claims, involves two of the century's most influential personalities--Adolf Hitler and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Royal gold

Tagle said the Vatican gold included ''gold bars captured by Hitler (which belonged) to the royalties of Europe of which the Vatican was the trustee.''

It also included ''royal gold'' which the British reportedly shipped to Singapore for safekeeping in the event that Hitler would conquer all of Europe. Tagle said the Vatican entrusted the treasure to a certain Fr. Jose Antonio Diaz, who assumed several names when he moved to the Philippines.

One of his aliases, according to Tagle, was ''Col. Severino Sto. Romana.'' Tagle said Sto. Romana hired the young Marcos as his lawyer and trustee. He said the Sto. Romana gold was ''actually more than the Marcos gold, about $50 trillion, but this treasure is tied up with the Marcos gold.''

Tagle, co-administrator of the Sto. Romana estates, said
the Yamashita treasure was recovered through the help of MacArthur and Yamashita's wife.

But an estimated 400,000 metric tons from both the Marcos and Sto. Romana gold, he said, ''are still in the country, hidden in caves.''

For lack of documents

The heirs of Sto. Romana were unable to recover the assets ''for lack of original documents and (because of the) nature of the accounts (which required) full cooperation of nominees and trustees constituted by the late President Marcos.''

Appearing before the Senate blue ribbon committee on Oct. 14, 1997, Tagle said Marcos, as lawyer and chief trustee of Sto. Romana, ''succeeded in isolating the nominees or trustees of the gold certificates from the physical assets--so much so that it is almost impossible to recover them without piecing the various pieces like a mosaic.'' Tagle said the ''
Marcos gold'' was ''not stolen from the Philippine government.''

Instead, said the former priest, Marcos abused his authority by using the Central Bank to transact the gold.

Tagle, who is presently in Davao City as consultant of gold prospectors, said he was ready to substantiate his claims.

He allegedly went into exile in the United States in September 1969 because the Marcoses were displeased about his leading a protest against graft and corruption in the Bureau of Customs.

He resigned from the priesthood and married. He is now chair and chief executive officer of International Consultex Inc., a New York-based mining, consultancy and engineering firm.

A lot of money

The Senate is conducting public hearings on the Marcos wealth, revolving around a $13.4-billion Swiss bank account once allegedly kept by Irene Marcos Araneta. Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez is presenting the evidence.

''Chavez knows what he is talking about,'' said Tagle, adding that the Marcos wealth was so huge that even Marcos' widow Imelda did not know its exact worth.

If Tagle's $10-trillion estimate of the Marcos wealth were true, the Marcoses would be around 111 times richer than ''the richest man in the world,'' Microsoft chief Bill Gates. Forbes Magazine in June estimated Gates' fortune at $90 billion.

Ten trillion dollars is also 56 times more than the combined net worth of the top 50 billionaires in Asia, and almost 1,111 times the combined net worth of four Filipino billionaires who made it to the 1999 list.

The Marcos family was not on that list.

The amount is also equivalent to almost half of the combined GNP of the world's top 10 economies in 1998. It would take approximately 4500 people--counting uninterrupted at a rate of one dollar per second--70 years to count $10 trillion.

Seven-point solution

Tagle said among the first things government should do to recover the wealth is to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government which has spent ''millions of dollars'' but has ''failed to produce the desirable results in bringing back the gold assets for the benefit of the Filipino people.''

Tagle proposed a ''seven-point solution'' to the problem of recovering the Marcos wealth: Create a Global Trust Fund to ''secure, recover and distribute the assets of Marcos in an out-of-court settlement.'' Have ''banking groups lend money to the Trust using the gold certificates and physical assets deposited in the lending banks, for a period of 15-20 years.''

The proceeds should be used to ''pay the Philippine debt'' and to fund ''education, social services, medical needs, and generate jobs by building new plants, roads, transport facilities, communication, irrigation, energy development, etc.'' Probate courts ''should assist in determining the rightful heirs and beneficiaries (of the wealth) and effect compromise agreements with primary and secondary beneficiaries.''

Government and all beneficiaries should ''agree on their respective'' shares.

''Adequate compensation should be given to human rights victims.'' ''Put a major portion of the funds into the development of Mindanao and other depressed areas of the Philippines by creating new centers of industrial development and free trading zones.''

''Establish an Asia-Pacific gold trading house in Subic backed up by a gold refinery, jointly operated by the Central Bank and private gold hallmark companies.'' ''Call a general and sectoral conference on the Marcos gold. World banking officials and lawyers involved in recovering the wealth must be invited.''

-- Carolyn O. Arguillas, Chief, PDI Mindanao Bureau; with a report from PDI Research


Zobel Says Marcos Hid $100-B Wealth
By Donna S. Cueto

The Inquirer (October 29, 1999)

HONOLULU--There is allegedly around $100 billion worth of Marcos wealth stashed all over the globe, including US Treasury and Federal Reserve notes, as well as assets being kept by the Vatican.

So testified business magnate Don Enrique Zobel, who yesterday appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee at the Philippine consulate here to ''open a Pandora's box.''

''This is the first time the US Treasury has been mentioned as a depository of at least a portion of the Marcos wealth,'' said Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., head of the investigating panel, after Zobel's four-hour long testimony.

The businessman also showed the committee a photocopy of what he said was a $161-million US Treasury note in Marcos' name.

''It's in the name of Mr. Marcos. It looks like this $161 million is being held by the US Treasury until now,'' Pimentel said.

Sen. Juan Flavier, a member of the investigating committee, said he believed the document was authentic. ''The credibility of Don Enrique Zobel is of the highest order,'' he said.

''I've known him for 30 years. He's a leading industrialist and banker, and a man whose integrity has always been at the highest level,'' Flavier said.

Zobel testified that Marcos in 1988 had shown him gold certificates worth around $35 billion, deposited in several countries, including Switzerland, Portugal, the United States, the Vatican City, Spain and the Solomon Islands, among others.

Zobel estimated that the Marcos fortune would reach $100 billion ''between gold, assets and dollars, (and judging from) over-all comments of even banker-friends.''

Zobel, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a polo accident in 1991, said he had nothing to gain by making his claims.

''I'm 72 years old. I won't last much longer,'' he said in a rasping voice. ''So I feel I would like to contribute something to the Filipino people.''

Zobel testified that former President Fidel Ramos, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the late Fabian Ver and the late Rep. Floro Crisologo were each given by Marcos $1 million worth of gold bars each.

Marcos told Zobel they were ''loyal'' men when he gave them the gold bars.

The businessman said Marcos paid Ramos and the other officials in gold bars to discourage aggressive pursuit of his assets. He did not provide other details about the alleged bribes.

'Greater significance'

Zobel said he first talked to reporters seven years ago about his discussions with Marcos but was dismayed to see that the government did not investigate his claims.

Much of his testimony yesterday first appeared in a series of interviews published in the INQUIRER in 1992.

Pimentel said this was the first time that Zobel revealed what he knew under oath before a government body, and that his testimony now acquired ''far greater significance.''

The senator said Zobel's testimony had a ''cumulative effect'' and would help the committee gather evidence to compel the release of still-hidden Marcos assets.

''The importance therefore of Zobel's testimony is that it strengthens our resolve to press the Swiss bank authorities to return the Marcos assets,'' he said.

Asked by Pimentel why he thought it took until this year for a government body to question him, Zobel said: ''I don't know, but an educated guess is the government doesn't want the Filipino people to know the truth.''

He also said Marcos did not want his wife Imelda and children to know the extent of his wealth.

According to Zobel, when Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' Marcos Jr., learned about the gold deposits, he allegedly blurted out in Filipino: ''Why didn't our father tell us about this?''

'The way I saw it, he never knew that his father had that much money or that much gold,'' Zobel said.

'Enough to start a war'

The Marcos gold was worth so much that a US contact of Zobel's said that the dictator's wealth was sought after by other countries, according to the businessman.

Zobel said his contact told him that the US government believed the fortune was large enough to finance or start a war.

He spoke at length about revelations made to him by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1988, one year before he died.

He said that he had received information that part of the Marcos wealth also came from Nazi gold brought by the Japanese to the Philippines during World War II. He said Marcos told him that most of his gold was composed of ''Yamashita treasure'' and gold bars he bought at $20 each from soldiers.

$161-M treasury note

Zobel presented a copy of the US Federal Reserve Note or Treasury Deposit apparently placed by Marcos in the amount of $161 million. He said the note was renewed several times.

''And this only involved one certificate,'' said Zobel.

The US Treasury Note bore the name of the depositor ''Mr. Ferdinand Marcos'' and had the transaction No. 65089793422199675.F.L. The certificate was marked ''International V.A. Trusty Dollar Transaction.''

Zobel could not remember how the note came into his possession or who had given it, and the investigating senators did not pursue that line of questioning.

'Any country in world'

Marcos had sought to borrow $250 million in the fall of 1988, saying the money was needed to pay the accumulated salaries of his staff of 300 in Hawaii, Zobel said.

He said he never intended to loan Marcos any of the money, but asked Marcos how he planned to repay it.

Marcos produced a ''thick folder'' containing gold deposit certificates amounting to more than $35 billion, based on the prevailing market price of $400 per ounce, Zobel said.

''I felt they were authentic. There was no question about that,'' he said.

''I scanned through the (certificates). I was openly interested in the (number of) ounces and the location, and the locations were all over the world,'' he said.

''You name any country in the world. They even had the Solomon Islands. And of course, Switzerland,'' Zobel said.

Saudi bankers

Zobel said he found it very curious that a day after Marcos told him about the gold, two senior officials of the National Bank of Saudi Arabia contacted him and told him to tell Marcos that they would buy the strongman's gold at a 40-percent discount.

Zobel said he communicated their offer, but Marcos said he would only agree to sell at a discount of 30 percent. The bankers then left.

''The (US) government really got mad at the situation. They didn't want Saudi Arabia to get that gold since it was enough to finance a war,'' according to Zobel.

He said the money was enough to pay the Philippine government's debt. He said that if the interest alone were distributed, Filipinos would each receive $2,000.


Zobel and Marcos' meetings allegedly focused on the formation of a foundation to use 75 percent of the Marcos wealth for the benefit of the Filipino people.

The trust or foundation would be headed by then Papal Nuncio Bruno Tropigliani.

Zobel said Marcos felt he was dying and wanted to do something right after successfully accumulating and concealing his massive fortune.

Zobel said he told Marcos: ''You forgot one thing. You forgot you were going to die.''

Marcos allegedly set two conditions for his wealth to be turned over to the Philippines: that he would be buried in his country; and that his family would not be pursued as criminals, or be charged civilly or criminally.

The Marcos family would be given 10 percent of the assets under the agreement, Zobel said.

'Extremely satisfied'

Starting at 2 p.m. yesterday, Zobel endured almost four hours of questioning from senators about the Marcos gold. His deposition is scheduled to resume today at 2 p.m.

A one-time Hawaii resident who now lives in Spain, Zobel, wearing a white barong, was strapped to a wheelchair throughout the hearing. He had difficulty speaking, and a secretary had to position a microphone whenever he spoke to amplify his words.

He later thanked the Senate for hearing him out. ''I'm extremely satisfied that the Senate blue ribbon has finally asked me questions because before they (people in government) never even wanted to talk to me about it,'' Zobel said.

''I felt it was my duty to reveal this to the Filipino people, particularly now that economic situation is very bad,'' he said.

Kidnap threats

Zobel expressed readiness to testify in the other Senate hearings, particularly to accompany two other witnesses who had been waiting for Zobel to testify.

One of them was a certain Dra. Pascual, a doctor of the late President.

The Senate will also take the deposition of Australian investigator Reiner Jacobi, who first exposed the alleged $13.2-billion ''I. Arenetta'' account in the Union Bank of Switzerland.

Pimentel also said the evidence the Senate had gathered so far also showed that the Marcos gold underneath Kloten airport was still in Switzerland.

Asked if he had received threats before his deposition, Zobel said he had gotten calls threatening that his children in the Philippines would be kidnapped.

He said two people had flown in to Hawaii on the alleged instructions of the Marcoses or their allies.

He named the two as a certain retired Army Captain Luga and public relations man Bobby Dacer whom he called ''a usurer paid by the administration to confuse the issue.''


$10-B Gold 'Custodian' To The Rescue

The Inquirer (October 30, 1999)

DAVAO CITY--Each government employee may yet enjoy this Christmas the P7,200 amelioration pay earlier scrapped by President Estrada.

That's if some 500 metric tons of gold said to be stored in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur, are turned over to the government.

Ex-priest Marcelino Tagle yesterday said that he would turn over to the government ''within the next two weeks'' the gold hoard worth about $10 billion (P400 billion).

Tagle, a former director of Caritas Manila and one of the country's ''Ten Outstanding Young Men'' in 1967, claims to be the co-administrator of the Sta. Romana Estate which reportedly has both the Yamashita and Vatican gold. The former priest said the Yamashita and Vatican gold was the main source of the Marcos gold which, according to him, was valued at $10 trillion.

Tagle yesterday told the INQUIRER that Pastor Iluminado Balonga of the Remnants of the Family of God in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur, had asked him to represent Balonga ''to donate to the government some 500 metric tons of gold bars.'' The gold donation can be used to pay for the amelioration pay of government workers this Christmas, cover the expected deficit of the government this year and pay part of the government debts, according to Tagle.

President Estrada last month issued an order prohibiting the granting of amelioration pay to government workers allegedly to save funds for roads and school buildings.

The scrapping of the amelioration pay prompted government employees to take to the streets.

A check with Protestant pastors in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, yielded negative information on Balonga.

The INQUIRER also checked with sources in Sta. Josefa but no one could give information on Balonga.

Guarded by armed men

Tagle said at least 300 armed men were guarding the area where the 500 tons of gold bars were kept. Groups including the military and cashiered Col. Alexander Noble are reportedly after the gold but could not penetrate the area, according to Tagle.

Noble could not be reached for comment.

Tagle, however, said that the tribal community in Sta. Josefa should benefit the most from the sale of the gold.

The former priest said Balonga had wanted half of the $10 billion to go to the government and the other half to the tribal community and the other people who had helped the pastor.

He said the pastor was authorized by 47 datus (local chieftains) to donate the gold.

''Pastor Balonga should be congratulated for his good intention of donating the gold,'' Tagle said. ''And there will be more (gold),''
the ex-priest said, adding that ''almost half of the gold hoard from the Yamashita treasures and the Hitler gold 'or the Vatican gold' are in the Philippines.''

Meeting with Zamora

Tagle said a Jesuit priest was making arrangements for his meeting with Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora and Mr. Estrada next week to discuss the donation.

He said his initial estimate of the value of the Marcos gold was ''only the tip of the iceberg.'' He said he was in close touch with the members of a committee of a Marcos Foundation currently chaired by Doña Maria Gosilatar.

Gosilatar became the chair of the foundation after Gen. Fabian Ver died last year, according to Tagle.

Tagle said Ver knew a lot about the Marcos gold hoard and his mistress, Edna Camcam ''is very knowledgeable about this.''

Tagle wants the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to explain what happened to the 132,000 metric tons of gold deposited in New York. A metric ton of gold is worth around $10 million, according to Tagle. ''Tayo ang pinakamayaman na bansa sa buong mundo. Tapos nagpapalimos tayo (We are the world's richest country. But why are we begging)?'' Tagle said. He said the country's wealth was ''confirmed by World Metal Preciux which is owned by Swiss banks and which controls the world's gold supply.''

The resigned Catholic priest said the World Bank was making the Philippines bow to its demands even as it was lending part of the Marcos gold to the country.

''Kawalanghiyaan yan eh (That's a shameless behavior),'' he said.

Tagle said Don Enrique Zobel was ''telling the truth'' when the business magnate claimed that some $100-billion worth of Marcos wealth included US Treasury notes and assets being kept by Vatican.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has described Zobel's allegation as ''fantastic as King Solomon's mines.'' The former priest said Enrile was downplaying the extent of the Marcos wealth. Tagle dared Enrile to sue him.

---- Carolyn O. Arguillas, PDI Mindanao Bureau


Chocolate Bars, Maybe, Says Ramos
By Armand Nocum

The Inquirer (October 31, 1999)

HE MAY not have any gold bars, but is anyone interested in a few chocolate bars instead? Unlike Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, former President Fidel Ramos yesterday managed to make light of businessman Enrique Zobel's claim that the late Ferdinand Marcos had given each of them $1 million worth of bullion.

''President Marcos had no reason to give me anything of value. I think what he had for me was hatred, not gold bars,'' Ramos said, citing his role in the chain of events leading to the Marcoses' downfall. ''Maybe we're talking about chocolate bars,'' Ramos told reporters, smiling and apparently unruffled by what he dismissed as a ''wild yarn.''

The former president, who flew in from Bangkok Friday night, joked with airport reporters that he would share the alleged treasure if he actually had it.

''I'll share the bars with you, even if they are just chocolate,'' he said.

His approach to the issue contrasted sharply with Enrile's.

Minutes after arriving from Germany on Thursday, Enrile vowed to bring Zobel to court, along with newspapers that printed the story.

Ramos, on the other hand, said he would not sue anyone, adding that he could take ''severe castigation'' even during his presidency. ''Iba naman ang ugali ko (My attitude is different),'' he said of his dealings with the press.

Over the past couple of days, a furious Enrile has accused Zobel of, among other things, insanity. ''Stupid'' was also how Enrile described Zobel's deposition to Senate investigators in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Ramos, however, chose to be diplomatic. ''I know (Zobel) to be an upright and patriotic Filipino who means well for Filipinos, but in later years, because of his disability, he may no longer be fully in control,'' Ramos said, without elaborating. Zobel, 72, has been paralyzed from the neck down since suffering a polo accident
in 1991.

Ramos said Zobel's estimate of the Marcos hidden fortune--$100 billion--was ''mind-boggling.'' It's as if ''dollars grow on trees,'' he said. He added that he couldn't imagine anyone having that much money.

Ramos was in Bangkok to address a forum organized by the Institute for Infrastructure Finance of Institutional Investors of New York. The evening he left for Thailand, he told the INQUIRER that he ''categorically denied'' Zobel's claim as a ''falsehood and fabrication.''

Never a crony

Public relations man Bubby Dacer, who flew in from Hawaii late Friday night, again denied Zobel's charge that he was a ''usurer paid by the administration to confuse the issue.'' ''I've never been a crony to anybody,'' Dacer said.

He said he never went anywhere near the Philippine Consulate and that reporters who covered Zobel's deposition could attest to that.

Dacer said it was ''unfair'' for the INQUIRER to link him to the issue without getting his side of the story.

The paper reported Zobel's claim to senators that Dacer was in Hawaii on instructions of the Marcoses or their cronies. The next day, the INQUIRER reported Dacer's denial. Zobel had also claimed a certain ''Captain Luga'' was also sent to Honolulu by the Marcoses or their allies.

Dacer yesterday appeared to know who Zobel was talking about, and took the time to deny that Luga had been in Hawaii at all.

'I can get documents showing Luga has not left the country. He is not even a captain, but a sergeant,'' Dacer said.


Jacobi To Reveal New Irene Account
By Donna S. Cueto
The Inquirer (November 4, 1999)

AUSTRALIAN investigator Reiner Jacobi will reveal new account numbers under new names in new banks to trace what happened to Irene Marcos Araneta's alleged $13.2-billion account, according to former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez. The lawyer also spoke yesterday of an ''international monitoring network'' which studies ''movements of the Marcos gold and other accounts.''

Jacobi will divulge the ''final piece of evidence'' to link the account to the daughter of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the ''appropriate time,'' Chavez said.

The evidence will include proof of the transfer of certain accounts under Client No. 885931, he said. Chavez also said other witnesses, aside from Jacobi, would ''unload very vital evidence'' of the gold hoard and of the Araneta account.

At least three witnesses are expected to be called this month to corroborate industrialist Enrique Zobel's testimony regarding alleged Marcos gold deposits which he valued at $35 billion.

One is the leader of an alleged
group of soldiers in the 1970s whose main work was to dig gold and other buried treasure for the Marcoses.

Chavez said he wanted Jacobi to be the final witness in the Senate's investigation of the alleged Marcos hidden fortune, so his evidence would not be ''diluted.''

The Senate blue ribbon committee is scheduled to take Jacobi's deposition in Australia this month. Most of the funds under the account held by Marcos foundation Sandy Anstalt, including the ''I. Arenetta'' account, were allegedly transferred from the Union Bank of Switzerland.

On March 10, two days after Jacobi's lawyer filed a case against the Presidential Commission on Good Government in the Sandiganbayan and the same day that it was reported in the INQUIRER, the account was allegedly ''muted.''

That was when transactions on the account stopped, Chavez said. The account was allegedly collapsed on April 30.
Sources said that all but one dormant sub-account under the mother account were closed or transferred.

''If they think we have no eyes or ears, they are mistaken,'' Chavez said.

Banker's admission

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., chair of the blue ribbon committee, said the Senate would use the admission of UBS official Hans Peter Bauer to compel the recovery of Marcos deposits.

''We could use this official's admission to push diplomatically, upon instruction of the President, further recovery of the Marcos wealth at UBS,'' he said.

Bauer, the bank's chief internal watchdog, made the admission on Sept. 16 at a conference on economic crimes and money-laundering in Cambridge, England.

Bauer made the disclosure before some 500 bankers and other conference participants. He said, however, that the bank denied any knowledge of the $13.2-billion account.

Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez, who attended the conference, said Bauer had admitted ''dealing with the Marcoses'' when the late dictator was still ''not projected in a bad light.''

It was not clear what time frame Bauer was referring to.

Pimentel Jr. said that Switzerland had enacted new laws exempting the alleged ill-gotten wealth of authoritarian leaders from bank secrecy laws.

''We can use these laws to try to recover money on that basis,'' he said.

But Galvez said the single admission of Bauer that UBS held Marcos deposits was not enough. ''We do not want this to be just a fishing expedition,'' he said.

He proposed that the PCGG invoke the agreement on International Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters. The Philippines and Switzerland are among the signatories of the agreement.

'Forgotten' battalion

Apart from Roberto Caoile, the alleged leader of the troop that dug up portions of the Marcos gold, the other expected witnesses are Dra. Lourdes Pascual and Teresita Gillego, the anesthesiologist and the private nurse, respectively, of the late strongman.

Caoile has formed a group called the
Forgotten Claimants of Yamashita-World War II Treasures Versus Marcos Estate Incorporated, composed of soldiers from the reactivated 16th Infantry Battalion in the 1970s who allegedly dug up gold and gemstones for Marcos.

Their story was the subject of an INQUIRER special report which came out in January.

They were allegedly part of Task Force Restoration, purportedly organized by then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver.

Their main task was allegedly to conduct ''
massive diggings and excavations'' under the cover of fighting insurgency in the countryside.

'Big Hawaiian'

There is also a possible fourth witness, Larry Mehau, Marcos' former Hawaiian security officer. Mehau, who now works for Zobel, will supposedly corroborate certain parts of Zobel's testimony.

Mehau, nicknamed ''Big Hawaiian,'' allegedly saw Marcos show a thick folder of gold certificates to the businessman.

Pimentel Jr. said Mehau was willing to come to the Philippines to testify. He said the bodyguard told him that he saw one gold certificate indicating $2 billion worth of deposits.

Pimentel Jr. said the testimony of industrialist Enrique Zobel was very important because it was the first time that someone who had first hand information and who had access to Marcos before he died had testified at the Senate hearings.

But Chavez said he would not rely on Zobel's testimony, and that the latter's claims needed corroboration.

''There is truth to Mr. Zobel's claim about the existence of Marcos gold certificates but their valuation at $35 billion was the result of estimation based on certain assumptions. I would not rely on the accuracy of this figure,'' Chavez said.

Sin and Erap

But Jaime Cardinal Sin, who has no personal knowledge of the fabled wealth, said yesterday he believed there must be a grain of truth to the existence of the hidden Marcos fortune.

''If there's talk (about the Marcos gold), then there must be something true. There won't be any talk if there is (no gold) in the first place,'' Sin said in an interview with radio station Radio Veritas.

The Archbishop of Manila expressed support for the Senate's efforts to get to the bottom of the story of the Marcos gold, although he added that he did not know just how much gold was involved.

And in a radio interview yesterday, asked if Marcos had confided in him regarding the alleged gold, President Estrada said that he was ''never that close'' to the late dictator.

''I was just the mayor of a small town. We were never that close to discuss those sort of things,'' he said.

---With reports from Stella O. Gonzales and Martin P. Marfil


Search For Gold
The Inquirer (November 5, 1999)

SEN. Juan Ponce Enrile describes Enrique Zobel as ''crazy'' and calls his testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee ''as fantastic as King Solomon's mine.'' But Enrile has an axe to grind against the now-ailing businessman friend of the late Ferdinand Marcos who revealed that the senator was among the four close associates who got $1 million each in gold bars from the dictator.

Secretary Ronaldo Zamora says Zobel's story is ''mind numbing and staggering.'' But then he once used almost the same words in dismissing the $13-billion account in a Swiss banks in the name of Irene Marcos Araneta, which is starting to look more and more credible with the revelations of statements made by some Swiss bankers.

Even former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, who has persisted in following the trail of the Marcos' ill-gotten wealth long after the Presidential Commission on Good Government seems to have given up on recovering the bulk of it, seems to have trouble accepting some parts of Zobel's tale.

He said Zobel's estimate of the Marcos gold hoard needs corroboration. ''I would not rely on the accuracy of the figure (Zobel quoted),'' Chavez said. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, blue ribbon committee chair, however, said Zobel's testimony is very important because it was the first time the Senate heard firsthand information on the Marcos wealth from someone who had access to the former strongman before his death. Sen. Juan Flavier, a member of the committee, swears by Zobel, saying his credibility is ''of the highers order'' and his integrity ''has always been at the highest level.

"Notwithstanding Enrile's characterization of his two colleagues as junketeers, idiots (''gago'') and bastards (''tarantado''), Pimentel and Flavier are themselves two of the most respected, honest and credible lawmakers around.

So, what are the Filipino people to make of Zobel's fascinating revelations? Zobel has put the Marcos fortune at $100 billion--$35 billion in gold and the rest in foreign currency deposits and other assets. That is P4 trillion in depreciated pesos and it dwarfs even Imelda Marcos' claim in an interview with the INQUIRER that her family's fortune amounted to P600 billion. It's a truly mind-boggling amount even to the Filipinos who can count beyond what it costs a family to have three square meals a day.

The difficulty stems from the basic question of where Marcos got--or stole--all that wealth. If Marcos stole every single centavo that the government collected during his 20-year rule money and every dollar of the $27-billion foreign debt the country incurred, he could not have amassed even half of what Zobel says he had. This leads us to the favorite story of Imelda and the Marcos loyalists: Marcos made his fortune by discovering the treasures of Yamashita and later through very savvy gold trading in the international market.

Zobel, in fact, has a duplicate of a gold certificate worth $161 million belonging to Marcos. If indeed this was the source of his immense wealth, then Marcos was not only the richest man who ever walked this earth but also the smartest and the luckiest businessman the world has ever seen, a reputation no one has heard about. To the Marcos family and their friends, this neat explanation has the magical power of blotting out the infamy of the former dictator being called the world's biggest thief. Maybe Marcos found some gold and traded in gold, but that certainly doesn't make him the upright statesman and honest hero his family wants people to believe him to be. If he did both--and that is subject to proof--he more certainly dipped into the national treasury to make himself very much richer.

Search for truth

ANOTHER puzzle that cries for a rational explanation is why, if Marcos had to so much, he hung on to it when his rule was being threatened. Using a small fraction of his reputed wealth to keep the economy afloat during the early and mid-'80s could have perhaps saved his regime.

Of course, it could be that he was too greedy to part with his ill-gotten money. But he also had an inordinate lust for power. INQUIRER columnist Adrian Cristobal recalls that Marcos used to say money was useless without power. Marcos apparently didn't act on this belief in his moment of greatest peril.

Why? Maybe, like Marcos used to say about rumors of his death, reports about the extent of his wealth are a bit exaggerated.

But that's no reason to give up the search for it. If only because most, if not all, of it belongs to the Filipino people, it is the government's obligation to return that money to them. And if in the process, the searchers find the answers to some very puzzling questions, that would be a rich bonus for history. The nation should be grateful that there are people like Pimentel and Flavier who keep digging to find the gold, the money and the truth.


Imelda Says Gold For Dev't Of All Of RP
By Christine Herrera, Cathy C. Yamsuan and Donna S. Cueto

The Inquirer (November 5, 1999)

CONFIRMING the Marcoses' reported plan to use their alleged gold to fund development projects, Imelda Marcos yesterday promised ''my family will cooperate'' with the government to recover gold certificates allegedly seized by US customs authorities in 1986.

While she confirmed the claims of an INQUIRER source who said that ''more than $100 billion'' would be used to bankroll such projects, she said the projects were not only intended for Mindanao but ''also for the rest of the country.''

Asked yesterday about the alleged Marcos plan, Mr. Estrada said that the allegations were only speculation, but he added that if any money could be recovered, he would use it to develop Mindanao and the Visayas.

The source close to the Marcoses said Wednesday that the development plan had allegedly been approved by the President. ''The Filipino people, not the Americans, are the rightful beneficiaries of whatever the amount the US government would be returning to us,'' the former first lady told the INQUIRER yesterday in a phone interview.

''My family will cooperate with the Estrada administration's efforts to reclaim the assets,'' she said. ''What is important here is that the amount will be used to alleviate our people's poverty.''

She also confirmed that a ''small'' portion of the amount would go to the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

But two senators and a former Senate president yesterday cautioned ''sources'' close to the Marcoses against floating stories encouraging people to dream of national progress through the recovery of the late dictator's alleged gold hoard.

'I won't sue US'

Marcos denied a report in another paper which claimed she was planning to sue US government officials for withholding the Marcos assets.

In an official statement which she signed and issued before the INQUIRER interview, Marcos said: ''I have not issued any statements on any plan to sue officials of a foreign country or relating to the ongoing investigation of the Senate blue ribbon committee.''

Sought for clarification, Marcos said she did not want to cause any legal skirmishes that might hamper efforts to recover the gold certificates.

''With the help of the government, we might be able to recover the gold certificates without having to be confrontational about the issue,'' Marcos explained.

The sooner, the earlier

The INQUIRER source had said there was an agreement that the gold certificates, allegedly seized at Hickam Air Force Base when the Marcoses fled to Hawaii, would be returned once US authorities approve the proposed development projects. The sooner the gold certificates were reclaimed, the former first lady said, the earlier the projects could be implemented. Marcos said she would divulge the details of the infrastructure and livelihood projects ''at the proper time.''

She lamented that for as long as the money allegedly remained in the hands of the Americans, the Filipino people would continue to wallow in poverty.

''Kawawa naman ang mga kababayan natin kung patatagalin pa natin ang paghihintay. Hindi mga Amerikano ang dapat makinabang sa mga gold certificates na iyon (Pity our countrymen if we prolong the wait. It shouldn't be the Americans who benefit from those certificates,'' she said.

Erap waits, wishes

Although he is skeptical of reports on the Marcos fortune, President Estrada said he would use any existing funds that could be recovered for development purposes.

''I am also waiting for the recovery of the Marcos wealth as government need the money and I wish we can convert the gold bullion and use it to bankroll development projects for Mindanao and Visayas,'' he said. He made the remark in his new radio program ''Ipa-Bombo sa Pangulo'' where he was asked to comment on the Senate blue ribbon panel's investigation into the alleged hidden wealth, estimated by businessman Enrique Zobel to total around $100 billion.

But Mr. Estrada repeated his opinion that all the reports were ''all talk.'' ''Many claim that they know something about the Marcos wealth.

Some even say they have gold. But up to now, no one has been able to show'' proof, he said. Like betting on lotto

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Raul Roco emphasized in separate interviews that no one so far, whether in the government or the private sector, has offered concrete proof of the existence of the gold.

Planning the country's development, particularly that of Mindanao, using a non-existent asset, is ''like betting on lotto and thinking of ways to dispose of the winnings before one has even won it,'' Roco said. ''It's good to hope but let's not plan on it. In case it is recovered, let's consider it hulog ng langit (manna from heaven),'' he added during a news conference. Enrile, on the other hand, joked that the so-called ''Yamashita treasure'' allegedly retrieved by former President Ferdinand Marcos consisted only of the Japanese general's gold teeth.

Former Senate President Jovito Salonga described as ''sheer fantasy'' businessman Enrique Zobel's testimony that the Marcos' estimated assets were worth $100 billion.

''Our government may not be taken seriously by other states, if we were to take as true the $100-billion yarn of Mr. Zobel,'' Salonga said.


Enrile said that unless those who believe that the gold really exists first reveal its location, ''it's useless to be talking about using it for development and heightening the expectations of the people unnecessarily.'' If the Philippine government believes this story, it should lose no time in initiating ''an immediate discussion with the US government to find out whether this is true,'' according to Enrile.

He said the government should then ''ask the United States to turn over these certificates, (although) I extremely doubt the veracity of these statements.''

Enrile, allegedly one of the four ''loyal'' Marcos men who received gold bullion worth $1 million each from the late strongman between 1960 to 1970, has consistently denied the existence of his former boss' gold.

'Is there really gold? That is my question. Where is it? Is it in the US federal treasury? In Kloten Airport in Switzerland? In Fort Knox? The Solomon Islands or in Timbuktu?'' an exasperated Enrile asked Senate reporters in an ambush interview yesterday.

'Chasing pot of gold'

Enrile, Marcos' former defense minister, also warned the unnamed source against implying that the US government was acting in bad faith. Supposing that the gold certificates do exist, ''what is the purpose of the US government in withholding these? Are we now imputing bad faith (to) the US government?'' he asked. ''I don't think the US government is responsible,'' he said.

''What I know is that the US government seized dollar currency and some P28 million brought by the Marcoses to Hawaii, (along with) all their documents, cash and jewelry,'' he said.

Enrile also belittled reports that a large portion of the Marcos gold was composed of treasure buried in the Philippines by Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita during World War II.

''When we investigated the existence of the Yamashita treasure during (Marcos' time), there was no such thing. In fact, Yamashita surrendered in my region, Region 2. The only gold of Yamashita was his gold teeth,'' Enrile said. ''I pray that all these claims are true so we can (solve) our financial predicament in the country. But I think we are chasing a pot of gold on the moon,'' he said, laughing sarcastically.

'Bury the myth'

Salonga, first chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, also urged the public to ''wake up and bury the myth'' that the Yamashita treasure was the main source of the Marcos wealth.

''The facts of recorded history are beyond dispute,'' he said. ''Yamashita had to evacuate his forces from one place to another. He was more concerned about his own survival and that of his men than with burying so many tons of gold from some mysterious source, which would have meant the forced labor of tens of thousands of Filipinos who would have talked about the open secret after the war,'' Salonga said.

Enrile initially saw red when Zobel named him as one of the officials who received gold from Marcos. The three others, Zobel claimed, were former President Fidel Ramos, the late Armed Forces Chief of Staff Fabian Ver and the late Rep. Floro Crisologo. A calmer Enrile said yesterday he would be ''very, very happy to testify and break to pieces their claims about the existence of this gold.''

Ani can't prosecute

Ombudsman Aniano Desierto yesterday said he could not use Zobel's testimony to file criminal charges against Ramos and Enrile because his statements were merely hearsay and inadmissible as evidence.

But Desierto said the PCGG could still pursue the recovery of the Marcos wealth using Zobel's testimony. Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez said yesterday that the Union Bank of Switzerland was criminally liable for hiding the Marcos deposits from the Philippine government.

Because of the recent admission of a top official of UBS, Chavez said the Senate could pursue a money laundering case against the Swiss bank which is suspected of hiding billions in Marcos deposits.

The admission of Hans Peter Bauer that UBS had dealings with the Marcos family ''means UBS has been lying to the Philippine government from 1986 to the present when it insisted it held no Marcos deposits,'' Chavez said.

''UBS has given ample ground for prosecution, at the very least for the filing of charges of money laundering,'' he said. Chavez said he would file a motion urging the Senate to pursue a criminal case against the bank.

'Shift in posture'

Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez said Bauer's statement was a ''significant shift in the posture of UBS which had consistently denied having transacted business with the Marcoses.''

Reacting to an INQUIRER story which appeared on Nov. 3, he clarified that ''Bauer never made any allusion to any particular Marcos account, much more the so-called Araneta account.''

The report did not say that Bauer had admitted the existence of the Araneta account.

Galvez also said that he could not recall saying: ''This is important. We want to keep the fires burning'' in reference to people offering assistance to recover the hidden wealth. However, he made the remark in a tape-recorded interview.
----With a report from Martin P. Marfil
(Donated by: Bill Luttig)
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