MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized the auction of jewels valued at $13.5 million that were seized from Imelda Marcos, widow of deceased dictator Ferdinand Marcos, after the fall of his government in 1986, Philippine media reported Friday.
Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo confirmed from Tokyo that Duterte has agreed to auction the jewelry for the benefit of the public.
Duterte is currently in Tokyo where he has been on an official visit since Tuesday.
The auction of what is known as the “Hawaii Collection” – made up of diamonds, tiaras, bracelets and gemstone necklaces – is a response to a request from the Presidential Commission on Good Government set up in 1987 to recover the illicit wealth acquired by the Marcos regime.
The jewelry of the former first lady was seized in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the family had fled to in Feb. 1986 after a peaceful popular revolt ousted Marcos who had been in power since 1965 and ruled the Philippines under martial law between 1972 and 1981.
At present, the jewels are stored in the vault of the Central Bank of the Philippines where they are on public display.
The collection includes a rare 25-carat pink diamond that was valued by Christie’s auction house in 2016 at $5 million and a Cartier diamond tiara whose value has increased several times since a first estimate of $50,000.
Imelda Marcos, known for her predilection for luxury and her extensive collection of shoes and jewels, was convicted of corruption for the first time last year and sentenced to at least 42 years in prison for siphoning $200 million from the public treasury to her private accounts in Switzerland between 1968 and 1984, when she was governor of Manila.
Marcos, who is an 89-year-old congresswoman, was also disqualified from serving in public duties although the sentence was appealed and has not yet been enforced.
The Commission on Good Government estimated that the Marcoses illegally accumulated some $10 billion, most of it hidden abroad; and Transparency International places Ferdinand Marcos as the second most corrupt leader in history behind Indonesia’s Suharto.
Despite having declared an inheritance of $950,000 from 1965 to 1984, the Marcoses acquired more than 100 paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet, valued then at $25 million, as well as several buildings in prime locations in New York and Beverly Hills.
Despite the looting, the family resettled in the Philippines just five years after their escape to face 400 judicial proceedings – which are yet to send them to jail – and returned to political life.
Their son, known as Bongbong, was a vice-presidential candidate in 2016 while their daughter Imee has just been elected senator after serving as governor of Ilocos Norte.