After Camelot, a Quest for Marcos’ Millions
Undated (AP) _ Those were the days ...
Bulletproof powder rooms and a grand piano by the bed. A fat man in diapers jumping from a birthday cake. Three thousand pairs of shoes. Smart-alecky pillows in a Manhattan mansion, crowing ″I love champagne, caviar and cash.″
Imelda Marcos called it Camelot.
″Filipinos want beauty,″ she said years ago, when husband Ferdinand Marcos ruled without challenge. ″I have to look beautiful so that the poor Filipinos will have a star to look at from their slums.″
It’s only now, with the Marcoses in exile, that Filipinos are gauging the magnitude of that star: the self-indulgence, the excess, the staggering cost.
To look beautiful, Mrs. Marcos had 3,000 pairs of shoes. Sixty-eight pairs of gloves. Five shelves of Gucci handbags. A bed 10 feet wide, with a grand piano and big-screen TV for amusement, and six baskets of imported soap in the bathroom.
There were bills left behind: $1 million for jewelry, $2 million for antiques. A single day’s shopping.
″The minute you see these things, you realize that they didn’t know the value of money anymore. They just kept buying and buying,″ said Bea Zobel, a Manila socialite who headed a committee to clean up the abandoned Malacanang Palace.
This wasn’t the way Imelda Marcos chose to present herself.
″They call me corrupt, frivolous,″ she said last November. ″I am not at all privileged. Maybe the only privileged thing is my face. And corrupt? God 3/8 I would not look like this if I am corrupt. Some ugliness would settle down on my system.″
President Corazon Aquino’s new government opened the palace to the public last week, giving the people a glimpse of such things as a life-sized portrait of a half-naked Marcos as Adam and Imelda as Eve swirling out of a sea of mist.
Among the videotapes found at Malacanang was one of a birthday party at which the guests wore baby clothes, and a fat man jumped out of a cake.
There’s still more to see, and still more to find.
Jovito Salonga, chairman of the Philippines’ Commission on Good Government and charged with tracking down Marcos’ assets, estimates that the former president was worth up to $10 billion.
When he got to Hawaii, however, Marcos had considerably less - $1.45 million worth. But it was all in pesos, and the exile entourage ran up a bill of $39,000 at the PXes at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, where Marcos is living temporarily.
Some of the clues to Marcos’ wealth may be in the 1,500 financial documents he brought to Hawaii. The Reagan administration has promised to hand them over to the Philippine government but Marcos’ lawyers are trying to keep them sealed.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Aquino’s government is looking all over the place:
- The Center for Constitutional Responsibility has tied up an estimated $350 million in Marcos assets in New York, including a townhouse in Manhattan worth up to $15 million counting its lavish contents and those cheeky pillows. Missing, a representative of the new government said, were the paintings to match plaques which mentioned Picasso, Van Gogh and Breughel.
- Ramon Diaz, a member of the good government commission, claimed last week that Marcos had $800 million in just one Swiss bank account.
- A two-story, white block home in Princeton, N.J., built around 1720 and reportedly occupied by Marcos’ daughter, Imee, when she attended Princeton University. It was recently offered for sale for $850,000.
- Michael E. Tigar, a University of Texas law professor, says he will file suit this week on behalf of the Philippine government, seeking to recover assets in the state including $19.2 million of bayfront real estate in Corpus Christi and $13 million in real estate near Fort Worth.
- London’s Mail reported that the Marcoses owned $14 million worth of British art and real estate, including a $1 million penthouse.
- Gen. Fabian C. Ver, former chief of the Philippines armed forces, was served with a subpoena in an investigation by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., of possible kickbacks involving more than $100 million in U.S. military aid.
- A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh is investigating whether Marcos got most of $80 million that may have been paid to one of his close associates by Westinghouse, which was seeking a nuclear plant contract.