M Le magazine du Monde
12 December 2015, page 40
Original Title: Les lntemautes mis a contribution pour traquer les ceuvres d’art des

By : Roxana Azimi

Internet users enlisted to track down works of art of the Marcos couple

Since 1986, end of the reign of the couple of Filipino dictator, the authorities seek to recover their gigantic loot. They launched a participatory website to locate the 200 still missing works of art.
For over twenty years, the former dictator Marcos and his wife Imelda constituted their collection of works of art and jewelry by diverting public funds.
A piece seizure by customs of Hawaii among the jewels of former first lady Imelda Marcos.

Thirty years after the destitution of the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, we are still reminded of his widow Imelda and her extravagant collection. In 2012, it was with the destruction of thousands of designer shoes at the National Museum of the Philippines in a flood. Today, it is with the hunt of their artwork collection. Late November, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which has put serious efforts in the last quarter of a century to recover the billions of dollars misappropriated by the former Presidential couple, announced the launch of a crowdsourcing site {www. to find the 200 works still missing, with the help of Internet users.

This hunt is an endless story. Many of the paintings and jewelry acquired by Marcos with public funds have already been confiscated in their Manila and New York homes, as well as by the Customs of Hawaii, where the dictator and his wife had taken refuge. The investigation was punctuated by interesting anecdotes.

In searching their New York apartment, located on Fifth Avenue, Filipino investigators fell on an object that looked at first glance a simple doorstop. After further investigation, the experts had identified . . . a valuable sculpture of Henry Moore, once sold at Christie’s. Other pieces were sold in an auction: a set of master paintings (including El Greco, Zurbarán  and Raphael) has brought nearly $15 million in 1991 to the Philippine government.

“Many criticized us at that time”, remembers Ming Roxas, former member of PCGG. “They reproached us for not displaying them in our museums. First, there were not only masterpieces. And then, with the humidity in our country, we needed the right equipment, which we did not have. We preferred to sell what we had recovered and disburse funds to farmers who did not have money to buy land. “

Since then, investigators have never ceased to track the missing works identified through receipts found in the different properties or through metal tags nailed to the walls. Among the lot are a landscape Camille Pissarro, Jardin de Kew près de la serre, a self-portrait by Francis Bacon and a painting by Joan Miró, Dawn. But Andrew de Castro, PCGG Commissioner admits: “The more time passes, it becomes more difficult to get hold of them.”

In 2013, the American police still managed to get hold of three impressionist paintings in the apartment of the former personal secretary of Imelda Marcos, Vilma Bautista. Three years earlier, she had disposed of Bassin aux nymphéas by Claude Monet, which had been part of the Marcos collection. Sold for $ 32 million (€ 29 million) to the London gallery Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, the canvas was sold straightaway to a British financier for $ 43 million (€ 39 million). The Philippines has requested the return of the artwork and the case remains unresolved. “I do not think anyone today would buy a work from Marcos without an official document confirming that the Philippine government does not challenge the property:’ said broker Thomas Seydoux.

As for the jewelry of Imelda Marcos at the hands of the State, the latter must decide their fate. Twice, in 1988 and 1991, Christie’s and Sotheby’s had estimated their value between 5 and 8 million (between 4.5 and 7.3 million euros). On 27 November 2015, the two auction houses have made a new confidential estimation, on the rise. Why does the Philippine government wait to put them on sale? “Many factors come into play”, says Andrew de Castro. “There Is the still ongoing trial, the lack of continuity within the PCGG due to a change of management, as well as the disagreements between different government agencies. It is perhaps not a priority.”

There Is another reason omitted by Andrew de Castro: the fear of offending a still rich and powerful clan, no member of which has ever been investigated. At 86, Imelda Marcos still holds court and represents the province of llocos Norte, a stronghold of the Marcos family, at the House of Representatives. Her daughter lmee is Governor. As for the son, Ferdinand Jr., he is running for Vice Presidency at the May 2016 elections… The Marcoses have rebuilt a political virginity. Up to a point that there were even talks of dissolving the PCGG in 2013. In these circumstances, it is questionable whether the launch of crowdsourcing site proves that the PCGG pursues the hunt or whether the initiative is a gallant last stand.


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Original Article Title: Les lntemautes mis a contribution pour traquer les ceuvres d’art des Marcos