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COA reminds Customs to reappraise Marcos gems

ALL THAT GLITTERS Christie’s auction house appraiser David Warren closely examines a neckpiece from the Roumeliotes collection, one of a three-set jewelry collection seized from the Marcoses after the family fled to Hawaii following the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986. EDWIN BACASMAS/Inquirer File Photo (2015)

How much are the Marcos gems valued now?

State auditors are pressing the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to submit its appraisal report on the highly prized 60-piece Roumeliotes jewelry set seized from a crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to update the agency’s book of accounts.

In its annual audit report on the BOC for 2016, the Commission on Audit (COA) repeated its longstanding request that the bureau submit its report on the valuation of the Roumeliotes jewelry, which was appraised by Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses in 2015.

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The BOC has not officially released the appraisal of the Roumeliotes set, which is deemed to be the most expensive of three jewelry collections confiscated from the Marcoses or their cronies after their fall from power in 1986.

At least P1 billion

In 2016, the Presidential Commission on Good Government estimated the value of the three collections at “at least P1 billion.”

In 1988, the Roumeliotes set was appraised at between $5.315 million and $3.846 million, COA said in the report.

The BOC’s failure to report has resulted in the “non-recording in the books of accounts thereby understating the assets and equity accounts and consequently, [exposing] these assets to possible risk of loss,” COA said.

After the appraisals by Sotheby’s and Christie’s in 2016, the state auditors requested a copy of the updated Inventory and appraisal report through an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) “yet no reply/report has been received from Management.”

“At present, there is still no copy of updated inventory nor appraisal report pertaining to the said Jewelry Collection,” COA said.

The Roumeliotes collection was seized from Greek businessman Demetriou Roumeliotes who attempted to smuggle out of the country a week after the Edsa People Power Revolution at least 60 jewelry pieces, in violation of the Tariff and Customs Code.

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The Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that the Roumeliotes collection belonged to the BOC. The jewelry pieces have remained under tight guard at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas vault in Manila.

‘Unreliable balance’

As for the two other jewelry sets, the PCGG serves as the custodian for the Hawaii collection, while the Palace has custody of the Malacañang collection.

The Malacañang collection has over 400 pieces of jewelry left behind in the Palace by the Marcos family as they fled the country, while is composed of some 300 jewelry pieces seized by the US customs bureau in Hawaii.

In a separate report on the Bureau of Treasury (BTr), COA observed an “unreliable balance” of P221.75 million in the BTr-PCGG’s escrow dollar account, of which P40.78 million was deemed “non-existent due to the absence of documents on the transfer of the account to Treasury Single Account.”

This, according to the auditors, has resulted in the “unreliability of the account balance.”

“Likewise, the BTr has been charging two per cent management fee for handling such funds without legal basis, unduly reducing income on interest earned by PCGG while increasing income of NGA (national government agency),” it said.

The PCGG is an agency tasked to recover billions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth during the Marcos dictatorship.

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