PCGG To Dig For Gold Under Marcos Mansions
By Christine Herrera (August 12, 1998)

DIGGING for the fabled Marcos gold is the next activity that the Presidential Commission on Good Government plans to embark on. PCGG Chair Felix de Guzman yesterday disclosed that part of the Marcos gold could be hidden in the compound of the seven Marcos mansions in Baguio City.

''We have received reports that gold bars were buried in the property housing the mansions that were surrendered by the Marcos cronies to the PCGG,'' De Guzman said.

He said he had ''asked President Estrada to authorize the diggings if we have ascertained that the golds really exist.''

De Guzman also said the PCGG could not discount the possibility that gold bars were also buried in other surrendered properties of the Marcoses in Bataan.

He said the diggings would begin as soon as the President issued the orders to do so.

''We hope to recover a huge chunk, if not all of the $13.5 billion-worth of gold deposits here and abroad,'' De Guzman said.

Reports have it that the fabled Marcos gold deposits were being kept in several Swiss banks.

''We have to make sure of the gold existence by checking our own backyard before looking for it abroad,'' De Guzman said.

He said the government was exhausting all means to recover the Marcos gold and assets allegedly acquired illegally by the Marcoses.

''The PCGG believes that all efforts, such as finding the gold and selling the surrendered assets, could help ease the financial constraints being faced by the government,'' he said.

He did not say the exact quantity of gold bars buried in the sprawling 55,962.65-square-meter Baguio property but said an informant estimated it at one million kilograms.

Illegal diggings

De Guzman said he was inclined to believe in the existence of the buried gold after ''illegal diggings'' had been discovered in the Baguio property.

''I have already ordered that the mansions be secured to prevent looters from conducting unauthorized diggings,'' he said.

De Guzman showed reporters the photos of areas where the ''unauthorized'' diggings had taken place. The photos showed that the diggings were conducted a few meters from the mansions.

De Guzman said the PCGG was trying to trace the people responsible for the illegal diggings. ''Definitely, it was not the government,'' he said.

Each of the seven mansions has a lot area of 7,994 square meters with an average floor area of 2,000 square meters, according to the PCGG chief. The compound is located at the Outlook Drive corner Itogon Road in
Baguio. The mansions were surrendered to the PCGG by Jose Yao Campos and Hans Menzi, close associates of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The cronies may have not been informed by the Marcoses of the gold's existence in the property, according to De Guzman.

Bataan property

He said he gave similar orders to secure the surrendered properties such as the 129.42-hectare prime property in Mariveles, Bataan, and the 5.6-hectare Piedras property, also in Bataan. These properties were both surrendered by Campos to the PCGG.

De Guzman said one of the informants was demanding a ''finder's fee'' of 10 to 12 percent of the gross value of the gold that would be recovered from these areas.

''The informant was demanding a fee for leading the PCGG to the exact whereabouts of the gold deposits,'' De Guzman said.

Asked if the PCGG would grant the demand, De Guzman said, ''We will clear it with Malacañang.''
The PCGG chief said experts were checking as to when the illegal diggings took place.

De Guzman expressed optimism that the looters could not have gone too deep. ''We hope nothing had been found by the looters yet,'' he said.

Other sources at the PCGG said the diggings could have been done only at night.

Erap Fumes Over PCGG Gold Digging
By Juliet L. Javellana and Lynda T. Jumilla (August 13, 1998)

THE ''UNAUTHORIZED'' statements of the new chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government on its plan to dig for the fabled Marcos gold in Baguio have infuriated President Estrada.

''I am the President here,'' Mr. Estrada was quoted as saying by a source who was present when he blurted out angry words for PCGG Chair Felix de Guzman. The PCGG chair had been described in Malacañang as a ''loose cannon.''

Another source said the excavation was supposed to be a secret, until De Guzman disclosed it to media.
''The President's problem there is how to confirm or deny the excavations, because if he denies it, the PCGG has already announced the plan,'' the second source said.

''He was surprised that De Guzman planned to undertake an excavation. It was not even cleared with him,'' said the source, who was inside the President's office yesterday.

The source said the President had been telling De Guzman to refrain from making statements not cleared with him.

''He was told that he must call the President if he were to talk about any policy statement,'' the source said.
In the Senate, De Guzman became the object of ridicule for allowing himself to be duped into going after the fabled Marcos gold in Baguio and Bataan.

Like other officials before him who had been involved in recovery of ill-gotten wealth, De Guzman has ordered a gold-digging expedition in various areas on the basis of ''received reports.''

''Why is it that whenever there is a new chairman there at PCGG, he always gets duped into believing that this gold hoard exists?'' an exasperated Sen. Franklin Drilon said.

Now majority leader, Drilon once headed the Senate blue ribbon committee which looked into the claims of bounty hunter Reiner Jacobi that the Marcoses had stashed away their massive gold hoard in Swiss bank vaults.

''We investigated (the claims of) Jacobi, and we came to the conclusion that all the documents he had were fictitious,'' he said.

The President was also irritated when the Inquirer reported De Guzman as saying that the Marcoses and their cronies could buy back the ill-gotten wealth through a negotiated sale, according to the first source.

But it was De Guzman's disclosure of the planned gold diggings at the seven Marcos mansions in Baguio City that fouled up the President's mood yesterday, the source said.

Not aware

The source added that the President was not aware of the plan to dig up the alleged Marcos gold bars in the Marcos mansions.

''He didn't know about it,'' the source said.

Before the sources talked, Malacañang reporters waited for the President to emerge from his office to ask him about De Guzman's statement on the gold diggings. The question was made known to the President by an aide.

But when the President came out of his office to preside over the oath-taking of new officials, he ignored the reporters' questions.

The first source also expressed the opinion that the PCGG was not the agency authorized to conduct the gold diggings.

''I believe the PSG (Presidential Security Group) is the agency in charge of the excavations, it was provided for in a Marcos decree,'' the source said.

The source said the President had been briefed about it.

Asked whether the President would replace De Guzman, the source said: ''He's too kind, he cannot say no.''
De Guzman was recommended by Estelito Mendoza, lawyer of the Marcoses and some of their cronies.
The second blow to De Guzman was dealt by Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, who said the Marcoses and their cronies could not buy back certain ill-gotten assets worth about P7 billion.

In an interview with a radio station, Zamora said the Marcoses and their cronies were ''barred by law'' from buying back the ill-gotten assets they surrendered to the government.

''It's not possible. We should follow the law,'' said a Malacañang statement, quoting Zamora's radio interview.

''Right now, the law states that previous owners cannot take part in the privatization,'' the executive secretary said.

In his State of the Nation address, the President gave the PCGG one year to resolve all the ill-gotten wealth cases.


Senators Blas Ople and Sergio Osmeña III said the PCGG chair probably needed the gold-digging activity to justify either his existence and salary, or the continued delay in the recovery and disposition of ill-gotten wealth.

Sen. John Osmeña lambasted De Guzman for the latest scheme in pursuit of the Marcos assets.

''I don't think they should be digging around. After all this time, they should have enough in their own files to work with so why do they have to dig?'' he said.

De Guzman's announcement of a new gold-digging expedition came on the heels of his earlier statement about letting the Marcoses and their cronies buy back some of their surrendered assets.

The buy-back scheme has drawn mixed reactions from other senators.

Some, like Senators Renato Cayetano, Tessie Aquino-Oreta and Raul Roco, opposed the plan on moral, if not legal grounds.

Others like Osmeña III could not care less ''as long as the Marcoses paid in cash.'' Senators Ramon Magsaysay and Ople, while neither agreeing nor objecting to the scheme, said a purchase by the Marcoses of their erstwhile assets would raise question about their present means.

''If the Marcos family makes (a) bid (for the assets), that means they have the money. But at the same time they are saying that they do not have that money. So which is which?'' Magsaysay said.

''If they have the money they have to show where the money came from that would put them in a more dangerous situation,'' he pointed out.

Ople said if the presumption was that the Marcos wealth was tainted, then the money they would give the government in exchange for their old assets was also deemed tainted.

More criticisms

In Davao City, Philippine Independent Church Bishop Felixberto Calang criticized the government's plan to allow the Marcoses and their cronies to buy back in a negotiated sale some of their ill-gotten assets.

He said allowing the sale of the alleged ill-gotten assets back to the Marcoses and their cronies would in effect legitimize their return to power.

Calang urged the government to be more transparent if it proceeded with plans to dig the fabled Marcos gold. With a report from Jowel F. Canuday, PDI Mindanao Bureau.

Gold Diggers Target - Marcos's Baguio Homes
By The PDI Northern Luzon Bureau (August 14, 1998)

BAGUIO CITY-"There were traces of diggings. They dug at night in the late '70s but I doubt if they got any treasure there,'' said Precy Miguel, former caretaker of the house of Ilocos Norte Gov. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Barangay Outlook Drive here.

The Inquirer has so far identified four sequestered Marcos houses here, each located in sprawling compounds.

Outside of the two-story house of Marcos Jr. which was built in 1972, the other houses used to be owned by the late Hans Menzi, aide-de-camp of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and Jose Campos Yao, another former Marcos ally.

The houses and the property were later bought by the late President between 1974 and 1977 for his wife, Imelda and Irene.

The Menzi compound at 43 Outlook Drive which is adjacent to the Marcos property, was bought by Irene Marcos-Araneta.

Miguel, 52, was in charge of the young Marcos's vacation house from 1977 until the Edsa Revolt in 1986.
Miguel was also assigned to look after the vacation mansion of Imelda Marcos, the biggest in the cluster of the Marcos houses on Outlook Drive.

Imelda's compound is made up of two houses with brick roofs, set among tall Benguet pine trees. The compound's fence is lined with Chinese bamboo.

Ms Marcos's house is located at a forested section of the barangay which is at least two minutes' drive northeast from the Mansion House, the official presidential summer residence here.

Marcos Jr.'s house is a two-story structure with two bedrooms, an attic and a kitchen. Miguel said the house was designed as a bachelor's pad.

Miguel said since the Marcoses bought the property in 1974, it was secured by Army soldiers until the Edsa Revolt.

Miguel said the only evidence of excavations there occurred when the houses of Imelda and her youngest daughter, Irene, were renovated.

''The houses were old when these were bought. That's why they needed to be renovated,'' she explained.

Enter PCGG

After 1986, the Presidential Commission on Good Government leased the houses owned by Ms Marcos and her son Ferdinand Jr. to pay for their maintenance.

Miguel said Ferdinand Jr.'s house was burglarized.

''Somebody broke into the house and took Bongbong's stereo. We were asked to look after the house because my husband was assigned at the Mansion looking after the President's official vacation house,'' Miguel said.

The PCGG cut off water and electric connections to these houses after the Edsa Revolt and only reconnected power when the Miguel family was asked by the PCGG liaison for Baguio Paul Lirio to move back in.

''What the PCGG told us was they could only shoulder electric consumption, we fetched water from a nearby spring,'' she said.

Miguel said the PCGG provided them a monthly allowance of P400 each month for staying in the house of Marcos Jr., and later, in Ms Marcos's house.

Miguel, who now lives in a smaller house near Outlook Drive, said neighbors had been wary about the new PCGG arrangements there.

She said neighbors were curious about the bamboo fences sprouting around the Marcos mansions which had been left in disrepair after the caretakers were asked to move out of the houses.

Bing Manzano, 38, who lives near the Marcos property, said new guards have been assigned to the place since last year, but noted no signs of activity there.

Not even gold digging. Miguel doubted that gold was really buried in the Marcos property here.
''I think these stories are fabricated because most of these houses were really used as vacation houses and were underutilized,'' Miguel, who now works in a government information office here, said.

Treasure hunter

But Alfredo Medina Sr., a treasure hunter based here, said he and his colleagues heard during the 1980s that some people had been looking for gold near the Marcos houses.

Medina, 67, who has been treasure hunting since the 1970s in various parts of Northern Luzon, said he believed the Marcos gold was part of the Yamashita treasure.

''They can say what I'm saying is purely hearsay. But I believe that the Marcos gold came from the Yamashita treasure. I can also pinpoint the exact location of the tunnels in Baguio City leading to the site where the Japanese buried parts of the treasure,'' he said.

Medina belonged to the group of Rogelio Roxas, finder of the Golden Buddha in a mountain tunnel behind the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center here on Jan. 27, 1971.

The Golden Buddha was forcibly taken by 15 to 20 armed men from Roxas on April 5 that same year in his house at Aurora Hill here.

Medina wrote former President Fidel Ramos in 1992 to share his knowledge of treasures buried in Baguio City and La Union and to seek assistance from the government in recovering these.

He received an acknowledgment receipt of his letter signed by Vicente Galang, presidential staff director, and asked him to come to Malacañang to accomplish an information sheet and for an interview.

But Medina lamented that after that, he never heard from Malacañang again.

''I just want government to realize that there indeed are treasures buried in the country, not only in Baguio but even as far as Zamboanga City. What government should do is to control and coordinate all treasure hunting activities so that whatever would be recovered could go into the national coffers,'' he said.

Reports from Vincent Cabreza, Frank Cimatu, Imelda Visaya and Robert JL Abaño, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau

Digging Plan Sparks Hunt For Yamashita Treasure
By Delmar Cariño
PDI Northern Luzon Bureau (August 16, 1998)

BAGUIO CITY—Renewed interests in the fabled Yamashita treasure surfaced anew when news broke out that the government would dig for treasures in the sequestered property of the late President Ferdinand Marcos in this city.

President Estrada has since castigated Presidential Commission on Good Government Chair Felix de Guzman for prematurely disclosing plans to excavate the supposed gold buried by Marcos and believed to be part of the Yamashita treasure.

But the tale of the gold continues. And what does the law really say on treasure hunting and diggings? Henry Roxas, son of Golden Buddha finder Rogelio Roxas, said in an earlier interview that a permit to dig for treasure should first be secured from the Presidential Management Staff in Malacañang.

''If the lot to be dug is public, 70 percent of the treasure's worth goes to the government and 30 percent remains with the digger,'' Henry said.

Digging on a private lot is of course different, he said. ''The owner might claim all the treasure since the digger could be branded as a trespasser.''

Henry said Baguio's positive treasure sites are all part of the fabled Yamashita treasure.

He said he is willing to enter into a joint venture with the government to explore the positive sites.

What law says

The 70-30 deal with private treasure hunters appears to be contrary to law. Under Article 439 of the New Civil Code, treasure is defined, for legal purposes, ''as any hidden and unknown deposit of money, jewelry, or other precious objects, the lawful ownership of which does not appear.''

Under Article 438 of the same code, hidden treasure belongs to the owner of the land, building, or other property on which it is found.

When the treasure, however, is discovered on the property of another, or of the State or any of its subdivisions, and by chance, one half shall be given to the finder and one half shall be taken by the State.

If the treasure finder is a trespasser, he shall not be entitled to any share.

Furthermore, if the things found will be of interest to science and the arts, the government may acquire them at their just price which shall be divided in conformity with the rule on sharing earlier mentioned.

But what has continued to stir a debate among lawyers is the qualifying phrase ''by chance'' which allows the digger of treasure on another's property to claim his just share.

Former Court of Appeals Justice Desiderio Jurado said ''by chance'' means ''by a stroke of good fortune.''

Thus, a person who, acting on a tip that treasure is found in the land of another, digs the said treasure, would legally not be entitled to his 50 percent share since he deliberately excavated for treasure, meaning he did not do it ''by chance.''

But other lawyers said it is now impractical to look for treasure ''by chance'' if not to search for it purposely.

No records

Despite talks that treasures have been dug up in certain areas of the city, City Hall has yet to confirm them. In fact, officials appear to be more amused than getting interested.

The Inquirer found that no record exists in City Hall showing any application for treasure hunting. Neither is there any record of treasure hunting activities.

''I am not aware of any entity which has applied for a permit to dig for treasure,'' retired Supt. Alejandre Layagan said.

Layagan, who heads the public order and safety division of the mayor's office, said reports have reached him about treasure hunting in the city.

''But I cannot confirm if indeed there were treasures dug because I have not seen one,'' he said.

Positive sites

Henry said it is not surprising for Baguio to be rumored as rich in treasures. He said the city has treasure sites that remain undiscovered.

''The city has four positive treasure sites and a lot of prospects. But I cannot reveal the positive sites,'' he said.

''The prospects, unlike the positive sites, should still be explored if they offer promise since they do not have lightpointers,'' he said.

''These lightpointers are old people who have knowledge of the treasure when it was buried,'' he explained.
Alfredo Medina Sr., a friend of Henry's father, said the huge portions of the Yamashita treasure were left in Baguio and these are still to be excavated.

He claimed what were unearthed by diggers like him were but small portions of the loot.

''The bigger chunks of the Yamashita treasure have never been recovered.

Even Mr. Marcos' men were not able to recover these because they don't have maps of the positive sites,'' Medina said.

With a report from Robert JL Abaño, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau.
Presidential Commission on Good Government Plan (PCGG) To Dig For Yamashita's Gold On Marcos Property
(four part story : donated by Bill Luttig)
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