Imelda Marcos' jewelry return hits snag

June 16, 2009 at 10:56 AM
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MANILA, Philippines, June 16 (UPI) -- The Philippine Justice Department says there may be a barrier to returning an estimated $310 million in jewelry to former first lady Imelda Marcos.

The jewelry was seized by the Corazon Aquino administration shortly after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Before leaving office Monday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez ordered the Presidential Commission on Good Government to return the jewelry if the agency found "no legal impediment," The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Tuesday.

Formed in 1986, the PCGG was charged with recovering ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses, estimated at the time to be worth billions of dollars.

In one of his last orders as justice secretary, Gonzalez said the PCGG should consider the legal basis for returning the jewelry since neither a sequestration nor freeze order was issued.

"There is that Supreme Court ruling saying that all properties, the values of which are beyond the legitimate income, are considered ill-gotten," Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said, explaining that the jewelry was not within the legitimate income of Ferdinand Marcos as a government official.

"The order does not categorically say that you release or transfer the jewelry but it says at the very end, 'If there is no more legal impediment,'" said Devanadera, also the country's solicitor general.

In May, Imelda Marcos wrote a letter, demanding the jewelry's return. The collection has been in a bank vault since 1990.

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