Two members of a Philippine commission trying to trace deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos' wealth arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday to investigate "a lot of properties in the state, including banking institutions."
Jovito R. Salonga, head of the Philippine Commission on Good Government, said he and fellow commission member Pedro Yap "hope to be able to pick up more documents (relating to alleged Marcos-owned properties) here--especially among members of the Filipino community."
Among the properties the commission will investigate is a possible real estate sale involving a home owned by actor George Hamilton, Salonga said, adding that the home may be among properties tied to the Marcos family.
Salonga and Yap would not speculate about the number of California properties that could be tied to the Marcos family.
"I will not quarrel over numbers," Salonga said. "We will confer with members of the Filipino community in Los Angeles."
Cronies Come Forward
He added that several former Marcos cronies have come forward to cooperate with the commission, but he refused to identify them.
The commission has attorneys working in several U.S. cities, he said, "and there will be specific criminal and civil suits filed against Marcos in the Philippines and in the U.S."
Yap, who returned to the United States on Thursday from a trip to Switzerland, had nothing but praise for Swiss officials who froze Marcos' assets in that country.
"They took that action because of attempts to transfer that money out of the country," Yap said. "I think the Swiss government is sensitive to the fact that their banking system might be viewed as a refuge for tyrants."
Swiss officials advised him that the Philippine government could pursue two courses in attempting to recover assets tied to Marcos, he said.
Can File Swiss Suits
"We could invoke the International Mutual Assistance Act which will enable the Swiss to help our government track assets," he said. "Or we can file civil suits in Switzerland."
Yap and Salonga said they believe the bulk of Marcos' wealth is in Switzerland, and they estimated that he transferred more than $1 billion to Swiss banks.
The three-week-old commission has only been able to examine 20% of the documents recovered since Marcos left office, but they said that its work has been moving more swiftly than they had anticipated.
"We thought we'd be compiling evidence for the next six months," Salonga said.
But that time has been reduced by the unprecedented Swiss agreement to freeze any accounts that Marcos may hold, and by the U.S. government's providing copies of documents that Marcos carried with him to Hawaii, he said.