Philippines still seeks $1 billion in Marcos wealth 30 years after his ouster

By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines is still seeking to recover about $1 billion worth of assets accumulated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos through 100 court cases at home and overseas, a government official said on Wednesday. "The task is not easy," said Richard Amurao, head of an agency created in 1986 to recover funds from Marcos. "The people holding these assets have been slowing us down. They have been using all sorts of delaying tactics to thwart our efforts." Marcos, who ruled the Southeast Asian country for about two decades, fled to Hawaii 30 years ago this week after a near bloodless popular revolt. He died in exile three years later. Reuters' efforts on Wednesday to contact his wife, Imelda, and son Ferdinand Junior, to seek a response to the comments were unsuccessful. Imelda has repeatedly said the family did not steal from the people and its wealth was acquired legally. Amurao said that since the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was created, it has recovered and given the treasury about $4 billion. In line with Philippine law, funds have been used mostly for land reform. Based on a Hawaii court ruling, 10 billion pesos ($210.04 million) was used to compensate about 10,000 victims of human rights abuses. The government hoped to raise $17.7 million from an auction of some confiscated Marcos jewelry, property and stocks, sources said this month. By unofficial estimates, Marcos had $10 billion of assets. 'BEHEST' LOANS "We don't really know if the $10-billion estimate is accurate but what we can tell you (about the $1 billion now sought) is based from estimates of the court cases and from what we already recovered," Amurao said. More than half of the court cases are civil lawsuits to recover shares, real estate, cash and jewellery, he said. A quarter of the cases involve "behest loans" state-owned banks gave individuals with political connections to Marcos, he said. Andres Bautista, a former PCGG chairman, said most of the cases under litigation are complicated and difficult because government prosecutors could no longer locate witnesses and find documentary evidence. "Some of the key players are also back in power," Bautista said. Members of Marcos's family remain active in politics. His wife Imelda is a congresswoman from Ilocos Norte, the political base of the family where her eldest daughter is governor. Her only son, Ferdinand Junior, is a senator and running for vice president in the May election. In independent polls, he is tied with another senator who's the son of a former Marcos era minister. ($1 = 47.61 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Richard Borsuk)