The Philippine commission investigating the wealth of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos plans to file criminal charges against him to facilitate efforts to recover assets reportedly held in Swiss bank accounts, a commission member said today.
Raul Daza, a member of the Presidential Commission on Good Government headed by former senator Jovito Salonga, told a news conference that the charges had to be filed in part to meet requirements for the waiver of Swiss bank secrecy laws regarding the reported Marcos accounts there.
Daza made the statement a day after the Swiss government took the unusual step of ordering a freeze on all assets of Marcos and his family in six banks as a "precautionary measure" following efforts to withdraw the funds from Switzerland. The Federal Council, which heads the Swiss government's executive branch, did not quantify the assets covered by the indefinite freeze order or identify the six banks.
In addition to the reported Swiss assets, Daza estimated that about $150 million worth of assets of Marcos and his associates already has been "sequestered," or frozen, in the Philippines since last month's overthrow of the 20-year Marcos regime. He said about $1 billion in assets abroad, mainly in the United States, had been frozen.
Documents brought to the United States by Marcos and made public last week indicate that he controls tens of millions of dollars deposited in two Swiss banks. Marcos' accounts in those two banks comprised more than half the bank deposits listed in the documents. A commission member here has said one of Marcos' Swiss accounts has been found to contain $800 million. Daza today said he could not confirm that figure.
In Switzerland, Philippine commission member Pedro Yap met with authorities to discuss possible steps to recover Marcos' assets. The Swiss federal banking commission, a government body, also widened its search for funds allegedly held by Marcos and his family. The commission issued a directive to all Swiss banks asking them to report on any money deposited by Marcos or his associates. Hermann Bodemann, president of the commission, gave the banks until Monday to report such deposits to federal authorities.
In order for the Philippine government to recover Marcos' assets in Switzerland, Marcos and his associates must be found punishable under Swiss and Philippine laws, Daza said. He added that criminal charges filed here against Marcos should correspond to offenses under Swiss laws. Daza said charges would be filed following the return of commission chairman Salonga, who is in the United States.
Once a criminal investigation has begun here, Manila may formally request assistance from the Swiss government for information about the bank accounts. If the request is granted, Marcos or the banks could still appeal the decision.
Swiss bankers were critical of the government freeze. "What this means is that every private client of Swiss banks , whether he is a chief of state of not, will see himself confronted with the possibility of having his account seized," said Yves Sohrmann, a spokesman for Swiss Bank Corp., one of the largest banks.
Philippine Vice President Salvador Laurel, meanwhile, suggested that Marcos should be prevented from leaving the United States so he can answer charges against him in U.S. courts. The U.S. government has been helping Marcos seek asylum in a third country, so far to no avail.
Cardinal Jaime Sin, the archbishop of Manila, also has intervened in the matter, disclosing that in a recent telephone conversation he had effectively discouraged Honduran authorities from accepting Marcos.
In another development, members of Marcos' former political party, the New Society Movement, reacted sharply today to a new provisional constitution proclaimed yesterday by President Corazon Aquino. In a statement, 65 of the party's 110 members in the parliament, which was abolished by the proclamation, accused Aquino of wielding dictatorial powers.
The statement called the provisional constitution "a Magna Carta of enslavement." But the party postponed a decision on whether to defy Aquino's proclamation and try to reconvene the parliament.
Dissent from the proclamation was joined by some legislators, led by Homobono Adaza, who belonged to opposition parties under Marcos and supported Aquino's election campaign. Adaza said these dissenters included 49 former opposition members of parliament. Government officials said, however, that there appeared to be little support for maintaining the parliament outside its former membership.