Woebegone Ferdinand and Imelda (with bodyguard) in Honolulu, 1986
by Alan Robles
When Marcos fled the Philippines in 1986, he tried to bring as much of it with him as he could
Unfortunately for the Marcoses somebody forgot to tell them that there would be a Customs inspection at Hawaii. US officials soon got at the plane truth and very quickly the boodle which Ferdy and Meldy had brought along was no longer hidden wealth -- it was all very visible.
Among the things the inspectors found were 408 pieces of jewelry, valued at about $10 million. They included a bracelet and earring appraised at $1.5 million. An inventory of the 300 crates included:
- 22 boxes of pesos valued (then) at $1.4 million
- a gold crown studded with diamonds
- three tiaras
- an emerald brooch
- 60 pearl necklaces -- enough pearls to cover an area 12 feet by four feet
- a heavily bejeweled ivory statue
- 65 gold watches
- 35 jewel-studded rings
- several gold bars
- 1,500 documents and ledgers, constituting what Stephen Solarz called "an encyclopedia of corruption." Among the papers:
- Secret Presidential Decree 731, dated June 7, 1975, where Marcos designates Imelda his successor should anything happen to him
- A November 1981 memo from Marcos to the head of the Philippine National Bank ordering him to transfer P20 million to "Philippine intelligence fund account no. 2 established for confidential intelligence purposes."
- A list of expenses paid from that intelligence account in 1981, including $200,000 for "official visit of the First Lady to Iraq" and $252,000 for "various expenses incurred in connection with the official trip of the President to Cancun, Mexico". According to Solarz, Imelda used the "Philippine intelligence budget as the equivalent of an American Express card"
- A one-page memo outlining "total interest, 1974 and 1975 only", listing $30 million in two Swiss banks, one Paris bank and another in Grand Cayman
- A one-page list of "accounting of commissions received from Westinghouse", which totals $11.2 million between 1976 and 1982
- A listing of precious gems on stationery of Olemir Trading Co., new York, detailing various gems and their prices, with the reminder that "pieces can be returned if price for you is too high"
- Documents detailing deposit certificates and bearer bonds worth $4 million, most of which were bought in the two days before the Marcoses fled
- Stock transfer deeds, bank documents, financial information about five Philippine hotels and "payments made directly to Mr. and Mrs. Marcos for disaster relief projects"
- A printout, dated 1982, purporting to detail payments to US political campaigns, including those of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Perhaps if the Marcoses had had a bit more time -- and a cargo ship -- they could have brought along what they left in Malacañang Palace: 2,142 pieces of jewelry, 508 gowns, 427 dresses, 71 pairs of sunglasses and those by now immortal shoes of Imelda, 1,060 pairs of them. There were also 75 filing cabinets of documents and three paper shredders that had broken down from overuse.
It turned out that Ferdinand Marcos was a forgetful traveler because among the documents left behind were details of kickbacks and commissions (plus receipts for thousands of dollars of flowers bought by Imelda), and a "declaration of trust" that strongly bolstered the Philippine government's corruption case against the dictator. So let that be a lesson: when you pack for a sudden trip, always have a checklist.