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Philippines orders return of Marcos jewellery

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Written on 7:47 PM by yahoo

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MANILA to former first lady Imelda Marcos that was seized after her husband was deposed from the presidency in 1986.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said on Monday that the government had not taken legal action to claim ownership of the jewellery.

"Evidently, Mrs. Marcos remains to be the legitimate owner of said prized jewellery," he said in a letter to the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the anti-graft agency, adding it was also not proved the items were ill-gotten.

Gonzalez said the state agency which aims to recover about $10 billion worth of alleged ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family failed to file a criminal or civil suit to claim the jewellery.

In 2006, the government tried to auction the jewellery collection, estimated to be worth 15 billion pesos , which has been kept in a vault at the Philippines' central bank since 1990.

Marcos, famous for her huge collection of shoes, jewellery and jetsetting lifestyle, went to a local court to stop the sale, arguing the gems were not acquired illegally using public funds.

"Thank God that after more than 23 years of relentless persecution and deprivation initiated by the government in 1986, President Gloria Arroyo's government has now started efforts for the Marcos' truth and justice to prevail," Marcos said in a statement issued through a spokeswoman.

"Many of those jewellery pieces were intended for religious images, like tiaras for the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The jewellery collections were seized at Malacanang Palace when the Marcoses fled the country in February 1986 after the dictator was toppled by a civilian-backed army coup.

Another set of jewellery was seized by U.S. authorities when the Marcoses settled in Hawaii, where the strongman died in 1989.

Imelda returned in the early 1990s and sought the presidency in 1992 but was defeated. She later won a congressional seat but gave it up after serving one three-year term.

Human rights advocates Rosetta Ann Rosales and Frank Chavez told reporters they would go to court to stop the government from returning the jewellery to the Marcoses, arguing about 10,000 victims of rights victims under Marcos' 20-year iron rule are still awaiting court-imposed compensation.

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