Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s apparent victory in the presidential election has raised concerns about the whitewashing of the crimes of his late father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., during the martial law period. Among those crimes is the plunder of an estimated US$10 billion worth of illicitly acquired wealth, much of which has not been recovered to this day.
Included among those assets are 160 paintings and artworks, valued at millions of dollars, illegally acquired by the Marcos family. That’s according to the Sandiganbayan, the Philippines’ graft and corruption court, which ordered that the art pieces be surrendered to the Philippine government in 2019. Some of the paintings are from renowned artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Van Gogh.
One such painting, Pablo Picasso’s Reclining Woman VI, made an appearance in Lauren Greenfield’s 2019 documentary about the Marcos family, The Kingmaker, but went missing soon after when the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) — a task force created after Marcos Sr.’s fall to chase after the family’s ill-gotten wealth — conducted a raid on former first lady Imelda Marcos’ apartment to seize the painting and other assets for litigation.
Yet when Marcos Jr.’s victory seemed imminent after Monday’s elections, said Picasso piece was spotted yet again on the wall of Imelda’s home in a segment on the news show TV Patrol.
Andy Bautista, the former PCGG chairman who also appeared on The Kingmaker, confirmed that the supposedly missing Picasso piece was the same one that now hung on the wall of the Marcos home.
“This painting was also captured in #TheKingmaker,” he wrote on Twitter.
In The Kingmaker, the former first lady flaunts the rare antiquities and artwork in her collection. “[Ferdinand] Marcos would say, ‘Imelda, I know how to earn money properly, but you know how to spend money properly because you buy beauty’,” she said in the documentary as the camera pans over the Picasso piece.
In the documentary’s next segment, Bautista shared that PCGG had filed a motion with the Sandiganbayan to seize the Picasso painting and other assets.
“There was a team that went to her house in Makati and they took photographs of the walls,” he shared, showing side-by-side photos of the same wall were the Picasso painting and other artwork were once hung versus the wall that his team had encountered, on which the paintings had been replaced with portraits of Imelda and Marcos Sr.
Bautista also shared that his team had been alerted about an 1899 Monet painting, The Water-Lily Pond, that had been sold by a Marcos associate in New York for US$32 million. When Bautista confronted Imelda on whether she claimed ownership of the painting, she quipped, “In case I do say I own the painting, will it be given back to me?”
That said, the authenticity of the Picasso seen in the latest photo is up in the air, as Reclining Woman VI is included among the list of assets seized in the raid of the Marcos’ San Juan home in 2014, according to court records.
Whether the Picasso piece is an original or not, buying fakes would not be out of the ordinary for Imelda — in 1986, The New York Times reported that much of the art that Imelda bought “is said to be bogus.”
In a press briefing today, Vic Rodriguez, Bongbong Marcos’ spokesperson, deflected questions on the allegations of the Picasso painting spotted in Imelda Marcos’ home. Instead, the spokesman dared Bautista to come home to the Philippines and answer allegations about his stint as former Commission on Elections chairman, where detractors had accused him of manipulating the transmission of votes in the 2016 elections that led to Leni Robredo’s victory in the vice-presidential race.
“It’s very easy to [agitate] people, making allegations when you are thousands of miles away from your motherland. I invite you, Chairman Andy Bautista, to come home. If you are confident enough, make your allegations here in person, and so to be fair to the Filipino people, we can also hold you accountable for the many misdeeds and allegations as to the conduct of the 2016 elections,” Rodriguez dared.
Robredo had narrowly beaten Marcos Jr. in the 2016 polls for vice-president by over 260,000 votes. This led to Marcos Jr.’s camp waging numerous electoral protests, including a recount that saw Robredo’s margin grow even wider in the pilot provinces Marcos himself had chosen. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the protest in February last year after he was unable to provide evidence for claims of vote fraud, ending four years of litigation.