I remember my compadre, the late Max Soliven who wrote a scathing column on the selling of the five (5) oil paintings of Il Canaletto, Italian master who painted in Venice in the 1700. They are so rare that most museums in the world do not even have one. The tourists would flock to Manila just to see one; and to think the Metropolitan Museum had five!
Then First Lady Imelda Marcos worked hard to gather five in her trips abroad. Most of them, or all of them were found in the mansions and castles of the nobilities who were cash short, but with only the title of nobility to hold on.
Max Soliven was so angry in his column in the Philippine Star when he heard they were brought out of the country to be auctioned internationally as promised by the foreign auction house. The five pieces were allegedly sold for fifteen (15) million U.S. dollars by our government. Max Soliven felt that they were not auctioned kasi ang ginagawa ng auction houses, binebenta privately sa mga billionaire clients nila na mga Kings, Princess and tycoons in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world on direct sale and on anonymous basis.
He told me that at the time that the pieces were “consigned” or “sold” by our government for 15 million U.S. dollars for the five paintings, they were already valued at three hundred million U.S. dollars each ($300M each). The five paintings could have paid part of our foreign loans for the price then was $1.5 Billion U.S. dollars, according to Max Soliven. It’s true for Picasso’s are selling at hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as other masters of the 1800 and 1900 now.
Max Soliven said that those five Canaletto paintings that was already ours, donated by Madame Imelda Marcos to the Metropolitan Museum should have stayed in the country. And Max was right. He was not pro-Marcos at nakulong daw siya noong Martial Law. I think it was only for about a month.
Rick Abcede became the Commissioner of the PCGG. He was my kababayan from Quezon Province and a close friend. As a matter of fact, he sat in my place in our “Dial M” program in Channel 4 whenever I was unable to appear. He and Maggie de la Riva carried on the show.
I learned a lot from Rick as PCGG Commissioner. I was the one who advised him not to sell Madame Imelda Marcos’ jewels; and to display them in the Museum in a vaulted room as done abroad and people will flock to our country just to see the jewels of Mrs. Imelda Marcos – what was left of them kasi ninakaw na ‘yong iba. Displaying them could generate income for the government from entrance fees.
‘Yong sapatos nga lang ni Mrs. Marcos, pinagkaguluhan ng mga turista. What more her fantastic jewels which some were gifted to her by Saudi Kings and Princes; and other tycoons she met in her travels abroad. She was the star in the world stage and placed the country in the map. She was regal, beautiful, gracious and a nice person.
My friend, PCGG Commissioner Rick Abcede (R.I.P.) told me so many things happening in the PCGG which would be better to abolish it for it was used as a milking cow by so many people assigned to sequestered companies with exorbitant salaries; and for intimidation.
The Marcoses lost a lot in Malacañang when the place was ransacked. For example, the Mansion near the Mines View Park in Baguio bought from an American gold miner tycoon and an old-timer in the country; the Palace in the Sky in Tagaytay City and many others that should have been preserved by the PCGG and rented out to some rich people, foreign or local as vacation homes, to generate income for the government. The Mansion in Baguio could have also been rented out, again to generate funds for the government. Na-preserve sana at pag ang bahay ay hindi natitirhan, nasisira.
Rich foreigners rent mansions in Europe and elsewhere by the months or years instead of staying in a hotel.
It’s really a pity to see those beautiful places go down the drain; and to think that the only reason was that they were once upon a time properties of the Marcoses before. A very stupid and non-sensical way of reasoning, as if we are talking of a contagious disease. It’s the government that stands to lose if those properties are allowed to rut.
What I am trying to say is: Nandidiyan na ‘yan. Ang gagandang mga bahay at kumpleto sa gamit, bakit pinabayaang mabulok, masira at mapurnada? The Department of Tourism could have handled them better than the PCGG for they only know how to confiscate and confiscate, without thinking what best to do with them. This is not to say that the PCGG has not done anything. No, we know that they (whoever they were then) could have done much, much better such as endorsing them to the Department of Tourism. I am referring to the past, not the present PCGG. I really do not know what is happening now.