‘FM, Imelda wanted to donate 90 percent of family wealth to the Filipino people, but BBM was against it’

IMELDA Marcos turned 94 years old on July 2, and the former first lady has one wish: Put up a Maharlika fund where the family can donate 90 percent of its wealth to the Filipino people.

That is not just her wish, that was the “last will” of the late President Marcos, according to Imelda’s close aide and confidante Serafia “Cherry” Cobarrubias in an interview with this newsman.

Cobarrubias has just finished writing a book titled “My President, My First Lady, My Life.”  The book is about her life, her love of, and her loyalty to Marcos and Imelda, especially when the family lived in exile in Hawaii. She expects the publication of the book shortly after Imelda’s birthday celebration.

Cobarrubias organized and financed all the rallies and other activities of Marcos loyalists after the four-day Edsa Revolution in 1986 up until Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.

She was only in her 30s when she joined Marcos’ running mate, former Sen. Arturo Tolentino, in the Manila Hotel siege in July 1986, the first coup attempt against the administration of Corazon Aquino. She is now in her 70s, holding all her experiences in defense of the Marcoses like a badge of honor.

In this interview, Cobarrubias showed us an advance copy of the manuscript detailing the former first couple’s plan about their wealth.

But unlike the Maharlika Investment Act passed by Congress late last May 31, the Marcos’ couple wanted to bankroll Maharlika Fund.

Under the plan, the Marcoses would give back to the Filipinos through their own Maharlika Fund 90 percent of the family wealth and retain 10 percent for the family. The couple had long liked the word Maharlika, that at one point in the Marcos administration, they wanted to change the country from Philippines to Maharlika.

She showed a copy of Imelda’s order to register and operate the Maharlika fund.

Where will the money come from?

Said Cobarrubias: “Alam ng mga anak iyan,” referring to the couple’s three children—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Sen. Imee Marcos, and Irene Marcos.

A book attachment reads:

“Certificates of Registration were to be formally issued on April 17, 2019, initially for the Marcos Loyalists. These were signed by my First Lady and with the waxed seal of a tradeable gold coin. According to the Last Will of my President, the Marcos Foundation assets/funds would be shared at 90 percent for the people, and 10 percent for the Marcos family. Imelda had likewise wanted it so.”

Imelda and Cobarrubias were not the first to reveal Marcos’ wish to split the Marcos’ wealth, 90-10, in favor of the Filipino people.

In a letter to President Aquino in February 1989, Vice President Salvador Laurel said he met with Marcos on his deathbed in October 1997, and that Marcos told him he wanted to return 90 percent of his wealth to Filipinos through a foundation, to be known later Maharlika Foundation, provided he was allowed to come home, die and be buried in the Philippines.

Aquino showed no interest, Laurel later wrote in his book, “Neither Trumpets nor Drums,” published in 1992.

By the recollections of the late industrialist Enrique Zobel, Marcos had left behind a cache of gold bars that in 1989 was worth at least $35 billion.

Zobel disclosed the value of Marcos’s gold bars in a 14-page sworn statement issued before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee at the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu between October 27 and 29, 1999. Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., then Blue Ribbon Committee chair, and Sen. Juan Flavier flew to Hawaii in response to two resolutions filed separately by Senators Serge Osmeña III and Franklin Drilon seeking to inquire about the gold bars.

Based on his deposition, Zobel said Marcos had $100 billion in his name and part of it was the $35 billion in gold bars.

Zobel was a close friend and finance adviser of Marcos, who stood by the late strongman until he died at 72 in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989.

Zobel said Marcos had shown him original certificates of the gold bars worth $35 billion, then based on the prevailing price of $400 per ounce.

Apart from the gold certificates, which came mostly from Germany, Zobel said Marcos had in possession two more tranches of gold from Suriname, a sovereign state in the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America.
 
In all, he estimated that Marcos had total wealth of some $100 billion. When Flavier asked him if he heard it right, Zobel replied: “Yes, $100 billion.” That was in 1989.

Zobel said he believed Marcos. He said the certificates looked real. Then one of the country’s richest men, he probably knew wealth like no other. He probably knew gold certificates like no other.

The disclosures of Laurel and Zobel reinforced a long-held view that the Marcoses had kept to themselves a huge treasure on top of the P170-billion Marcos wealth the government recovered as of 2015.

On August 29, 2017, President Duterte announced on national TV that the Marcos family was willing to return a few hidden gold bars, but Senator Imee Marcos denied his announcement a few days later. If indeed anyone of the Marcos heirs made an offer to President Duterte, it would be the first time for them to officially acknowledge that they indeed had a cache of gold bars, and that these have been in their possession for many years, giving credence to Zobel’s testimony.
 
In an interview on August 31, Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay Party-list group quoted Imelda as telling him that she wanted to return part of her family’s supposed 7,000-ton gold cache worth roughly P15 trillion. According to former PCGG commissioner Ricardo Abcede, in various media interviews in 2010, Imelda had told him she had $1 trillion in an account in a New York bank.

Why the willingness to part with 90 percent of the family wealth?

“My First Lady never stopped thinking of the Marcos loyalists,” Cobarrubias wrote.

“She instructed me to look at how she could be able to obtain funds from sources that were not sequestered nor frozen. The Marcos Foundation could be activated and the funds distributed for the benefit of the people who would be named as ‘the Maharlikans.’ She repeated this to me like a mantra.”

In 2019, the younger Ferdinand, now President Marcos Jr., stopped Cobarrubias from pursuing it, for reasons she could not completely understand. It was against her will. Still, the former first lady, now weak and ageing, still wanted it done because, according to Cobarrubias, it was the late president’s last wish.

On May 31, the Senate passed on third and final reading Marcos-certified Maharlika Investment Act seeking to establish Maharlika Fund. The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version a few hours later.

President Marcos said he would sign the bill into law as soon as he gets it.

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