Marcos ill-gotten jewels worth more than a billion pesos

Following the weeklong appraisal in November 2015 of the massive ill-gotten jewelry collection seized from the Marcoses and stored in a vault at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for almost three decades, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) announced that the value of all three collections now amounts to a conservative estimate of at least P1 billion.

Christie’s auction house appraiser David Warren examines a diamond jewelry seized by the Philippine government from former first lady Imelda Marcos Photo by Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

This is based on the reports submitted by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, which show that the total estimated value of the thousands of pieces has significantly increased, some items increasing in value ten folds from previous appraisals. Further gemological testing on significant items is necessary for a more accurate estimate.

The Marcos Jewelry Collection is composed of three collections. The Malacañang collection was abandoned when the Marcoses fled the Palace and is presently under the custody of the Office of the President; the Hawaii collection on the other hand, was seized by the US Bureau of Customs upon the Marcoses’ arrival in Hawaii in 1986, under the PCGG’s custody; and the Roumeliotes collection, significant pieces that Demetriou Roumeliotes, who is believed to have links to former first lady Imelda Marcos, attempted to smuggle out of the country right after the former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ ouster, which was confiscated by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) at what used to be Manila International Airport.

The collection includes diamonds studded tiaras, necklaces, brooches, earrings, belts, and other gems as well as women’s and men’s wristwatches such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Cartier. Some pieces were from renowned international jewelry makers such as Bulgari, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Bucellatti. Among the most notable pieces is the 25-carat pink diamond, considered to be an exceedingly rare jewel.

Just this week, the Privatization Council, chaired by the Department of Finance (DOF) has approved the proposed sale of the PCGG’s Hawaii collection in the international market. “As the PCGG commemorates its 30th anniversary, the Commission remains unwavering in accomplishing its mandate of recovering all ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and returning the same to its real owners. We hope that the Filipino people will finally benefit from the proceeds of the collection. The jewelry confiscated from the Marcoses remain a singular manifestation of the misguided priorities of the Marcos presidency during his reign,” said PCGG Chairman Richard T. Amurao.

Recognizing the historical significance of these jewels to the nation, the PCGG plans to exhibit part of the jewelry collection prior to its international auction.

“It has been long desired by the PCGG to put the jewelry collection on public display to inform the Filipino people of the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship,” said Chairman Amurao. “The collection is a critical part of the past. We believe that the exhibit of these ill-gotten jewels will be a great vehicle to raise awareness, especially for the younger generation and those who have forgotten, to remind the Filipino people of the perils of the two-decade regime of corruption that was under the Marcoses,” he added.

As a matter of transparency and good governance, the PCGG will continuously confer to update the public as to the exhibition and auction of the Marcos Jewelry Collection which it will partly undertake with the BOC which is in custody of the Roumeliotes collection.

Aside from this, the PCGG is set to launch MissingArt.PH, a website to crowd-source tips on the whereabouts of more than a hundred missing artworks which the Marcoses purchased during their two-decade reign that have yet to be recovered. Extremely valuable paintings made by the most iconic artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Pierre Bonnard, and Michelangelo are just among the missing artworks. The Marcoses amassed an art collection that can rival a country’s national gallery.

—From the Presidential Commission on Good Government