Philippine Presidential Race: Labor Leader-Candidate Vows to Pursue Imelda Marcos for Graft

Jojo Riñoza
Philippine Presidential Race: Labor Leader-Candidate Vows to Pursue Imelda Marcos for Graft Labor leader and 2022 presidential candidate Leody de Guzman speaks during a protest to mark the 73rd International Human Rights Day, at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Dec. 10, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Philippine labor unionist and presidential candidate Leody de Guzman is vowing to jail convicted former first lady Imelda Marcos for massive corruption and move to recover millions of dollars in stolen wealth if he wins the election in May.

The widow of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was convicted in November 2018 for stashing about U.S. $200 million in stolen money through Swiss foundations when she was governor of Metropolitan Manila in the 1970s. Mrs. Marcos was ordered to serve six years in prison but, soon after, was granted bail.

De Guzman, a 62-year-old activist who is a familiar face at labor-rights rallies in the Philippines, is in the running for the presidency as an alternative to local politics dominated by old names, including the Marcoses. Ferdinand and Imelda’s son is in the field of candidates vying to become the next occupant of Malacañang Palace.

“I am not a lawyer, but if there is a basis to jail her, we will move to jail Imelda, even for just three years,” de Guzman said during an appearance at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) this week, as he expressed astonishment at how Mrs. Marcos had managed to be granted bail despite being convicted on charges of large-scale graft.

Seeing the former first lady in jail would hopefully “alleviate the disappointment of our countrymen the Marcoses stole from,” de Guzman said, stressing however that she might be allowed to go free because of her advanced age. Mrs. Marcos, who served as first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, is 92.

During President Marcos’s rule – which included 14 years of martial law from 1972 until a people-power revolt ousted him from office in 1986 – the Marcos family allegedly plundered up to U.S. $10 billion from state coffers. Ferdinand E. Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989, where he lived in exile.

Imelda and her children were allowed to fly home three years later and start rehabilitating the family’s political name and fortune. This has resulted in the heir apparent, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, now in the running for president in the 2022 general election.

Marcos Jr’s sister, Imee, is currently a senator, while the family matriarch continues to be a divisive political power broker. Meanwhile, only a fraction of that money deposited in Swiss banks and some properties linked to the Marcos family in the United States have been recovered so far.

De Guzman said there appeared to be compromises that have allowed for the rehabilitation of the Marcos family.

“We will first take the wealth away from the Marcoses and look for the rest while working to speed other forfeiture cases against them,” de Guzman told reporters at FOCAP in Manila on Wednesday.

He said it boggled the mind why the government, with all its resources, had failed to recover all the wealth the past three decades, leading to the rise of speculation about incompetence or back-room dealings that allowed the Marcoses to evade accountability.

“I will fix the composition of the PCGG and welcome all other information on the status of claims. There is already a decision against them, but [the government] has been slow in the implementation [stage],” de Guzman said, referring to the Presidential Commission on Good Government tasked to recover the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda (second and third from left) join former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (right) and Nancy Kissinger (left) for a toast in Manila, May 28, 1979. [AP File Photo]

Before Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declared his candidacy for president in the 2022 general election, the Marcoses had contributed money to Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign war-chest that allowed him to win the 2016 presidential contest. Marcos Jr, who is popularly known by his nickname “Bongbong,” has chosen the president’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, as his running mate.

De Guzman acknowledged that he was at the bottom rung in pre-election surveys but argued that the campaign had put his labor agenda in the mainstream. He rejects neoliberal economic policies, saying he would have a “government and economy for the masses,” if he wins at the polls on May 9.

Marcos Jr. leads the presidential race so far, as reflected in early surveys of Filipino voters.

He has survived multiple complaints before the elections commission filed by victims of his father’s brutal regime who are seeking to disqualify him for a previous tax evasion conviction. The elections commission has thrown out some of the complaints, but the petitioners have said they would appeal the cases to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

De Guzman predicted political unrest if he were to win election to the top office, with many Marcos victims joining forces for a series of protests on the streets.

The Marcos camp has long denied that they stole the funds, and Bongbong has never apologized to the families of the thousands of activists jailed, slain, or who went missing during his father’s rule.

“People will rally against national amnesia because they [Marcos family] robbed us once,” de Guzman said. “The wounds of the past will remain until he admits that his father and mother stole from us.”


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