Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

"Bong Bong" Marcos is beset by the media at
Honolulu International Airport.

Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin



Bong Bong back for
gold case

Marcos Jr. calls the claims nutty

By Tim Ryan
Star-Bulletin



Nearly three years after leaving Hawaii to accompany his father's remains to the Philippines for burial, a slightly grayer, more relaxed and less defiant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has returned to Honolulu to testify that allegations his father illegally accumulated $1.6 trillion in gold are "preposterous, ridiculous, and just plain nuts."

"Actually, this reputed thousand tons of gold we are supposed to have are all in my luggage," Marcos Jr. joked en route to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. "You know, the U.S. Customs Service just isn't doing their (job) anymore."

Marcos Jr., son of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, arrived yesterday with his wife Liza for his scheduled court appearance today in what has been dubbed "The Golden Buddha" trial. The couple's two small boys, Simon, 6 months, and Alexander, 4 years, remained in the Philippines.

The trial, entering its third week, involves a claim by a group representing a Filipino man who says Marcos soldiers robbed him of a 1-ton solid gold Buddha. Marcos Jr. laughs at the damages sought: $1 trillion.

"I think perhaps the amount of gold they think we have may be more than exists even in your Fort Knox."

The trial includes a group representing deceased treasure hunter Rogelio Roxas, who claimed Marcos' soldiers raided his home in the Philippines 25 years ago and took the bounty for the president. Before Roxas died in 1993, he turned over claims to the treasure to a group of investors that organized as the Atlanta-based Golden Buddha Corp. The group then filed a lawsuit in the United States.

After 25 years of mystery and much-publicized courtroom proceedings, a Philippines regional court ordered the release of the Golden Buddha to the family of the late Roxas.

The statue turned out to be made of lead and brass. But the family says it is a fake and that the original had a detachable head and was filled with diamonds.

Marcos Jr., affectionately known as Bong Bong to friends and family, was an angry, exiled son when in 1993 he took his father's remains from Honolulu to Ilocos Norte to be placed in a family crypt. The youngest Marcos accused the U.S government of betraying and lying to the family to keep them exiled in the United States for political reasons.

Three members of the Marcos family - Bong Bong, Marcos Sr., and Imelda Marcos were forced to stay here for six years and were banned from returning to the Philippines; daughters Aimee and Irene lived in other countries.

But yesterday, dressed in light blue jeans, a black, short-sleeve shirt with button-down collar, and brown leather loafers, Marcos Jr. appeared happy though tired when greeted by about 25 friends outside the U.S. Customs arrival area at Honolulu Airport.

"You know despite those past unpleasant circumstances when we lived here it feels really great to be back in paradise," he told the Star-Bulletin. "I have always loved Hawaii and the people here. My family's anger and resentment (about being exiled) had nothing to do with the location."

During the 30-minute ride to Waikiki, Marcos Jr. joked with long-time Marcos supporter Joe Lazo, and frequently deferred legal questions to wife, Liza, an attorney he met in New York during his parent's fraud and racketeering trial.

"Something very good came from that ordeal after all," he said.

Marcos family attorney James Linn contacted Marcos Jr. on Friday to ask him to travel to Honolulu to testify in the case after a prosecution witness testified that the younger Marcos personally had shown the witness tons of gold buried in Ilocos Norte.

"The family must answer in person these preposterous assertions that were made ... about mountains of gold," he said.

Marcos Jr., 38, was a member of the Philippine House of Representatives until last year, when he gave up his seat for an unsuccessful bid for the Senate. He also was sentenced last year to nine years in prison for failing to pay taxes between 1982 and 1985. He's appealing the sentence.

He now is helping his the political career of his mother, Imelda, while trying "to figure what's going to happen" in the 1998 Philippines political scene.

Marcos Jr. is seriously considering running for an office again.




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