MANILA — A government commission created to recover wealth allegedly plundered from the Philippines by Ferdinand E. Marcos has discovered an $800-million Swiss bank account held by the ousted ruler, an official said today.
The holding is just a fraction of the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion Marcos is believed to have sent abroad before he quit Malacanang Palace for exile in Hawaii two weeks ago, according to Ramon Diaz, an official with the Commission on Good Government.
Diaz declined to provide further details on the Swiss bank account or to say how the commission learned of its existence.
However, the Manila Times quoted an unidentified source on the commission as saying that among documents found in the palace abandoned by Marcos was correspondence between Marcos and unidentified Swiss banks, including code names and account numbers of deposits totaling between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.
The newspaper quoted the sources as saying Marcos opened his first account in 1967 with a deposit of more than $1 million.
The Aquino government, meanwhile, took action today to immobilize Marcos and his associates financially by freezing 33 bank accounts in the Philippines. The amount of money involved was not known.
Among Marcos associates affected by the order are businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, a cousin of President Corazon Aquino, and "sugar baron" Roberto Benedicto.
In other developments today, Foreign Minister Salvador Laurel ordered 18 ambassadors and 40 other foreign service employees to return to Manila from postings abroad. A Foreign Ministry news release said they had overstayed their foreign tours, which are limited to eight years.
"It is well known that in the past, only persons with the right connections were given the choice posts where they overstayed, thus destroying the essence of the foreign service," the release said.
Among those recalled were Pablo A. Araque, ambassador to Mexico, and Monico R. Vicente, the envoy to Australia.
Marcos went into exile in Hawaii on Feb. 25 after being toppled by a civilian-supported military revolt but has been trying to run his party by advising leaders by telephone to stay united.
But today, 22 parliamentary members of his New Society Movement (KBL), stunned by embarrassing revelations about his wealth, called for setting up a new party and for cutting "all links with Hawaii."
One politician, Antonio Diaz, told the meeting: "The party is now so discredited that there is a need to break away from the KBL and start an entirely new party."