At stake:

* A fortune in stocks, bonds, foreign currencies, properties, precious metals and jewelry and Swiss deposits to the tune of US$5 billion plus interest.

The Players:

* The Philippine government, keen to return the Marcoses' wealth to the people.
* 10,000 Filipino victims of human-rights abuses, claiming monetary compensation for abuses by the late ex-dictator.
* Refal 196 Ltd. - a British company claiming that Marcos defaulted on some US$650 million.
* The Golden Buddha Corporation seeks US$20 million for items allegedly confiscated by Marcos.
* US law firm Anderson, Hibey, Nauheim and Blair wants the estate to settle US$4 million in alleged unpaid dues.
* Imelda Marcos, now a congresswoman, is appealing against a sentence for graft while maintaining that there was no corruption in the years her husband was in power.
* Mr Magtanggol Gunigundo, chief of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.


MANILLA - Philippine President Fidel Ramos has called on Congress to authorize the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement over the wealth of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos allegedly hidden in Swiss banks.

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Mr Ramos also criticized the Philippine judiciary for taking so long in reaching a decision on the disposition of the Marcos wealth.

He confirmed that earlier on Wednesday, in a meeting with Congress leaders, he had called for a Bill or a resolution which would authorize the government to reach a compromise agreement with the Marcos family. He noted that at his request, both houses of Congress introduced such Bills in 1994, but they have lain dormant since.

He said Congress should "at least get some resolution...that would express the sense, the spirit of Congress, again for a compromise but to indicate the objective: to get it transferred from Switzerland and to recover as much of it as possible".

The suggestion came a day after lawyers for human-rights victims seeking to claim the Marcos wealth alleged that Mr Ramos had a Swiss bank account and claimed a link between this account and a supposed attempt to launder gold stolen by the Marcoses.

The human-rights victims are seeking enforcement of a US court decision awarding them US$2 billion in damages from the Marcoses for abuses committed during his 20-year regime, which ended when Mr. Marcos was overthrown in 1986.

Mr. Ramos, who previously denied having a Swiss bank account, said that "these lawyers making these claims...must now be the ones heard under oath, maybe in a congressional hearing".

The government has been arguing with the Marcos family and with human-rights victims over the disposition of the Marcos wealth, particularly over US$500 million which has been frozen in Swiss banks.

Mr Ramos said that while Manila was supportive of the claims of the human-rights victims, its position was "that that money belongs to the Filipino people and not an exclusive group".

He said Congress could authorize a settlement in which part of the money would be allocated for the human-rights victims.
Ramos seeks compromise on hidden Marcos loot
Judiciary slammed for delaying settlement
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