Saturday, May 29, 2010

Abcede insists on 'midnight sale' of Marcos jewels

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Ricardo Abcede is determined to auction off the Marcos jewelry before the next government takes over in June, saying he will insist on this when the commission en banc meets again.

"If the PCGG thinks the Arroyo presidency should await the presidency of Noynoy Aquino before taking steps to auction off the jewels, then the PCGG will hear a loud and yes, disrespectful 'no' from me, the next time we meet en banc," he said in a statement.

Abcede issued his statement as he accompanied Raymond Sancroft-Baker, an official from auction house Christie's, at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Cash Department for appraisal and inventory of the 200-piece Roumeliotes collection of jewelry on Wednesday.

Roumeliotes is one of the 3 jewelry collections from former First Lady Imelda Marcos. The other 2 are the Malacañang collection, which was found in the Palace after the Marcos family left the country in 1986, and the 300-piece Hawaii collection seized by US customs officials.

Abcede's plan to auction the jewels goes against the decision of other PCGG commissioners to leave the matter to the next administration because of legal impediments, and to avoid being accused of striking a "midnight" deal.

The PCGG claimed it did not issue any resolution authorizing the auction of the Marcos jewels.

However, Abcede, who admitted spreading himself thin to pursue the "much-delayed" auction, reiterated that the jewels should not gather dust in the vaults of the BSP while government coffers bleed.

"If some colleagues of mine in the PCGG think it’s too soon to convert those billion-peso jewels into cash, more than 20 years after they had been confiscated by the government, I’ll just have to say I am of a different stripe than they," he said.

"I happen to be the type to bulldoze through and over bureaucracy to attain goals that just cannot be sacrificed on the altar of red tape – considering the dire need of the Filipino nation for funds."

Abcede earlier said that the jewelry auction had been scheduled by the Department of Finance (DOF) as early as last year, the very reason why it could not be labeled as a midnight sale.

According him, a gemologist from another auction house, Sotherby's, will arrive on Thursday to also conduct an appraisal of the jewelry collections.

By Friday, Abcede said all appraisals would be completed after which a final meeting with DOF, Commission on Audit, Bureau of Customs and PCGG would be held.

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