MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte does not need any new law or authority from Congress to negotiate for the return of the Marcos wealth to the Philippine government, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.
In a press conference, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the President has the “continuing principal authority” to recover the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
Lagman said the PCGG is tasked to assist the President in the recovery of ill-gotten wealth amassed during the Marcos Regime.
The PCGG was created by the late President Corazon Aquino under Executive Order No. 1 on February 28, 1986.
“The President can also cause the investigation with respect to this hidden wealth and he is authorized to give the PCGG the power to investigate,” Lagman said, citing the executive order.
Lagman further said the President can negotiate the surrender of the ill-gotten wealth even without the authority from Congress.
“However, the unwritten rule in the projected negotiation must conform to transparency, accountability and no conditionality,” Lagman said.
For his part, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House of Representatives still has not received any official communication from the Palace regarding President Duterte’s request for congressional authority in the purported deal of the Marcoses to return part of their wealth.
However, Alvarez said the lower chamber will look into the legalities of the matter and determine if Congress indeed has the power to authorize the President in this possible negotiation.
“Pag-uusapan pa lang namin dito whether meron ba kaming power to authorize the President to negotiate… titignan yung legalities,” Alvarez said.
(We will still discuss it, whether we have the power to authorize the President to negotiate… we will look into the legalities.)
In a Palace briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that “as the President has promised, this entire negotiation will be done professionally and transparently, with a full accounting to the people, and especially, authority from the Congress.”
“We, therefore, urge Congress to authorize the President to proceed with negotiations and set parameters taking into account concerns raised by critics and the citizenry. It would be best if we all work together for final justice, closure, and national reconciliation,” Abella said.
On August 29, Duterte said that he was approached by a representative of the family of former president Ferdinand Marcos over their willingness to “open everything” and “return” to the Philippine government some wealth in question, including a few gold bars.
The President said then that because of the complexities of the issue, he was trying to look for someone not identified with anybody to handle the negotiations.
Last Saturday, Duterte said that the negotiations would require many stages and would need the approval of Congress for the deal to proceed.
In the meantime, Abella said that the Palace is not taking any stand regarding the explanation proffered by the Marcoses over the ‘hidden wealth.”