When the 1986 People Power revolt chased the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his family into exile in Hawaii, they took with them $5 billion to $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth, based on official records.
On top of cash and overseas bank accounts, they also amassed jewelry that befits a Christie's auction, rare works of Monet and Rembrandt, banknotes, and certificates for embezzled properties.
As stated in a Sept. 24, 2021 Sandiganbayan decision, when the Marcoses arrived in Honolulu, they brought with them “numerous crates of boxes, suitcases, attache cases, and envelopes containing jewelry, Philippine and U.S. currencies, certificates of time deposits, documents and bearer certificates and all such properties constituting ill-gotten wealth."
How big is $10 billion? If it were to be declared as the net worth of the Marcos family, they would be second to the Philippines' richest, the Sy siblings who are worth $16.6 billion, and ahead of other top billionnaires Manny Villar, Enrique Razon, and the Gokongwei siblings.
It would also be enough to pay the monthly wage of 37.6 million Filipinos earning P13,500 per month.
So for anyone who's disputing the fact that the Marcoses pilfered state coffers, the courts say otherwise.
Seven presidents after the late dictator's rule and 35 years since People Power I, the Marcoses are seeking a return to Malacañang through the presidential bid of his only son and namesake Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Marcos Jr.'s efforts to revive the family brand also renewed interest in their ill-gotten wealth even as he denied supposed knowledge of such.
"If you think that we're hiding something, if you find any, then it's yours," Marcos Jr. said in a 2017 forum.
What happened to the Marcos' fortune?
As of March 2021, the government has recovered P174.2 billion in cash and some P55 billion in assets either for sale or privatization from the Marcoses' loot according to the Presidential Commission on Good Government or PCGG.
The PCGG is a body formed by the late president Corazon Aquino specifically to recover wealth stolen by the Marcoses from state coffers.
Of the money recovered, the PCGG said P79 billion has been distributed to farmers through the comprehensive agrarian reform program; P10.5 billion is for the compensation of human rights victims, and P76 billion were given to coconut farmers through the so-called coco levy trust fund.
But that's only around $4.5 billion of the estimated ill-gotten wealth acquired by the Marcoses.
Since Marcos' ouster, his slowly regained the popularity they had during the late dictator's rule. On social media, supporters hail the Marcos years as the Golden Age of the Philippines.
His widow Imelda was elected four times as congresswoman, while his children Bongbong and Imee both served as senators with the latter still in office.
Where's the rest of the loot?
The PCGG said the government was still running after some P125 billion in ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses.
"The recovery process is still ongoing in a continuing fulfillment of PCGG's mandate," it said.
And with Marcos Jr. running for president in 2022, the recovery process might be in peril should his family regain control of Malacañang.
A frontrunner in presidential surveys, Marcos Jr. is set to battle it out in a multi-race election for Malacañang which also includes his 2016 political nemesis Leni Robredo, who narrowly defeated him for the vice presidency.
American lawyer Robert Swift, who has spent years looking for the family's hidden wealth, said in Bloomberg's documentary "The Mystery of a Dictator’s Missing $10 Billion Fortune" released on Aug. 5, 2021, that the public might see traces in the upcoming elections.
Like many countries, elections in the Philippines are largely won by those with money to spend on votes.
“I’m confident that some of the money that was acquired by Ferdinand Marcos and hidden is going to find its way in the 2022 elections in the Philippines,” he said.