By TERRENCE JAY BASUL
MANILA – Where did the supposed wealth of the Marcos family come from?
There are certain claims on social media about the supposed wealth of the Marcos family coming from the looted gold from World War II, as well as the gold bars received from the Tallano-Tagean Royal Family.
According to history professor Francis Gealogo, former head of the Department of History of the Ateneo de Manila University, there are no historical accounts to prove these claims.
“A narrative that is not factual is fiction,” said Gealogo during a webinar on February 12 titled “Searching for the Gold: Debunking the Myths of the Tallano Gold and Marcos wealth.”
The webinar was organized by the Akademiya at Bayan Kontra Disimpormasyon at Dayaan (ABKD) and facilitated by Joyce Caubat from ACT Private Schools.
Who are the Tallano-Tagean Royal Family?
According to claims of Marcos supporters, the wealth of the Marcos family came from the gold bars that were payments from the Tallano-Tagean Royal Family, a supposedly Maharlikan Empire that ruled the country. This “royal family” purportedly owns the Philippines and was among the parties that signed the Treaty of Paris.
The Treaty of Paris is a pact between the US and Spain, where the latter ceded its colonies, including the Philippines.
Standard history textbooks such as Anthony Reid’s History of Southeast Asia, D.G.E Hall’s A History of Southeast Asia, and D. R SarDesai’s Southeast Asian History Essential Readings, however, revealed that there are no records of a Tallano-Tagean Royal Family, much less the latter’s representative signing the Treaty of Paris.
There were also claims that the “Tallano Royal Family” had a 1934 agreement with the Vatican involving 640,000 tons of gold. The agreement was allegedly brokered by a certain Fr. Jose Antonio Diaz who consequently hired Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. The Tallano family purportedly paid them 192,000 metric tons of gold, making them then two of the world’s richest.
However, historians said that the Philippines only established its ties with the Vatican in 1951. They also found no Fr. Jose Antonio Diaz. Instead, his purported photos were that of a certain Fr. Antonio Aglipay but the latter was never listed as among the richest in the world.
Did the Marcoses return the gold?
During the forum, historians also debunked the claim that the Marcoses returned the gold bars to the Philippine government after World War II.
Such claims, they said, are nowhere to be found in the references like Renato Constantino and Letizia Constantino’s The Philippines: The Continuing Past and Stephen Shalom’s The United States and the Philippines: A Study of Neocolonialism. Neither are such claims found in the compilation of primary source documents edited by Daniel B Schirmer titled A History of Colonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance.
Gealogo said that if gold reserves were indeed handed to the Philippine government, there would have been no need to borrow money from multilateral agencies, especially during the Marcos dictatorship. In 1986, the country’s foreign debt totaled P470 billion ($9.16 billion) which is four times the national government budget. Filipinos will be paying for the country’s debt incurred during the dictatorship until 2025 — 36 years after the first EDSA uprising.
According to the claims in social media posts of Marcos supporters, the Maharlika government was made up of the Philippines, South Borneo, Hawaii, the Spratly Islands, and Sabah. It allegedly existed before Spain colonized the Philippines.
Gealogo debunked the claim that there is a lease agreement between the so-called Maharlika government (which is tied to the Tallano’s) and the Central Bank involving 617,500 tons of gold reserves.
Such claims are not mentioned in primary textbooks like Unequal Alliance, 1979-1986 by Robin Broad and Central Banking as State Building: Policymakers and Their Nationalism in the Philippines, 1933-1964 by Yusuke Takagi.
Gealogo also debunked the claim that Marcos Sr. withdrew and deposited gold in the Swiss Bank in Zurich, Switzerland and that the remaining 400,000 metric tons of gold of the Tallanos were deposited at the Central Bank office on East Ave, Quezon City.
Marcos Sr. and wife Imelda Marcos instead deposited $950,000 in Credit Suisse in 1968, under the aliases William Saunders and Jane Ryan, based on the findings of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Historians said that the accounts show that what was deposited was not gold but stolen money from public coffers.
According to independent think-tank IBON Foundation, the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is approximately pegged at P1.87 trillion ($36.4 billion), assuming that the family just had US$4 billion in 1989. This could have inflated to at least US$38.4 billion by 2021 from interest on deposits, earnings from investments, and appreciation in the value of real properties and assets.
Meanwhile, the United States Customs Service estimated that the Marcos family brought with them jewelry amounting from $5 million to $10 million when they went to Hawaii in exile.
A Philippine court, on the other hand, has found Imelda Marcos guilty of seven counts of graft for creating private foundations in Switzerland when she was a government official. She was never arrested.
“Fear history, for it respects no secrets.” Gealogo quoted Gregoria de Jesus, Lakambini of the Katipunan Revolutionary Movement. He stressed that the truth will always prevail despite the attempts to fabricate or distort it. (JJE, DAA, RVO)