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Philippines search for Marcos millions

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda reportedly amassed billions of dollars while in power  

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Snail's pace

Billions unpaid

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MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- An over-burdened Philippine Justice Department will have its hands full as it handles another controversial case, having been tasked to help recover huge debts owed by the former Marcos regime.

Philippine Justice Secretary Hernando Perez confirmed Wednesday he was ordered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to assist the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) in its recovery of the Marcos millions.

The request comes amidst reports of a money-laundering attempt by a Marcos heir.

Irene Marcos Araneta, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, recently tried to move her family's supposed ill-gotten wealth -- including at least $13.2 billion in a controversial account with the Union Bank of Switzerland account -- into a newly opened account at Deutsche Bank, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

But German Secret Service agents, who were tracking down the Marcos supposed money laundering case, were tipped off about her plans.

Perez, also pursuing disgraced President Joseph Estrada over corruption charges, vowed to abide by the President's order.

Buthe stressed his office would merely assist in the operation, while PCGG retained authority.

Arroyo had been reluctant to invlolve herself in the recovery of the Marcos wealth, saying it was the responsibility of the PCGG.

But the President changed her stance in response to criticism her government was being negligent in not recovering the Marcos bounty.

Snail's pace

Perez is slated to meet with PCGG officials for a briefing on evidence the commission has gathered in its investigation into the Marcos' ill-gotten wealth.

While the PCGG claimed it had already asked for the evidence against Araneta from the German authorities, the German officials reportedly said that this had not yet been done.

The PCGG has long been criticized for the slow pace of its probe, and for its reliance on the response of Swiss officials who were later believed to have lied about the accounts allegedly owned by Irene.

Cory Aquino's government formed the PCGG after the fall of Marcos1986.

Its prime objective was the sequestration of the ill-gotten assets of Marcos, his relatives and cronies, and to preserve and maintain these until their final litigation.

The Justice secretary said he would also try to find out why the PCGG was not using information gathered by Australian fortune hunter Reiner Jacobi, who has been a PCGG agent since 1989.

Jacobi, who has been helping the government pursue the Marcos loot reportedly stashed away in several banks in Europe, has been denounced by the Philippine government, and at one point was barred from entering the country.

Billions unpaid

But lawmaker Rep. Loretta Rosales said assigning the Justice department to recovering the money was unwise, as it was already handling 10 corruption charges against Estrada, a well-known Marcos ally.

Rosales represents a group of martial law victims who have won a $2.3-billion civil suit against Marcos and his heirs.

The Marcos family, however, have refused to pay off the victims, claiming that they could not come up with the money.

They urged the government instead to make use of a $700-million account it holds escrow to compensate the claimants.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was the first president to be toppled by a bloodless people power revolt in 1996. He was forced into exile in Hawaii where he died.

His presidency was smeared with reports of human rights violations, and wide-scale corruption. His wife, Imelda, was well-know for her extravagance, owning several huge mansions in the Philippines and, imfamously, more than two-thousand pairs of shoes.

Imelda Marcos alleges rights violations
February 7, 2001
Marcos opens shoe museum
February 16, 2001

Who2 Profile: Imelda Marcos
A Showcase of Extravagance:Imelda R. Marcos
The Wit and Wisdom of Imelda Marcos

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