by Alan Robles
When the Marcos family fled to Hawaii in 1986, investigators that year finally got a chance to grill the slippery ex-dictator about his wealth. This time the Marcoses had no military, no state apparatus to intimidate, arrest or harm their questioners. This time Ferdinand couldn't hide behind the office of the president to browbeat, mock, evade or laugh off accusers and questioners. He couldn't use his dictatorial powers to put himself above the law as he had done in the Philippines.
What a difference a lack of brutal power makes. Philippine government lawyers, supported by the US government, cornered Ferdinand and Imelda in their Hawaii hideaway and spent a contentious 12 hours taking videotaped testimony.
Not that they got much cooperation. Ferdinand Marcos invoked the US Fifth Amendment (the right against self-incrimination) 197 times in response to questions on the following: Swiss bank accounts, transfer of funds to George Hamilton, kickbacks and commissions from purchases of helicopters and the building of the nuclear power plant; skimming from US aid monies; the circumstances of his departure from the Philippines, New York real estate properties, Japanese kickbacks, use of PNB for personal purposes and other topics.
Unused to such treatment, Marcos could hardly restrain himself and had to be admonished by his own lawyers to be patient. He scornfully told one of his questioners: "You are repetitious and dumb."
For her part Imelda invoked the Fifth more than 200 times in the course of six hours of questioning. Among the questions she was asked: Swiss bank accounts and Swiss foundations; use of the PNB for personal reasons; jewelry purchases in the millions of dollars; furniture purchases worth $6 million; her financial and other relationships with George Hamilton.
Marcos claimed before the deposition started that just because he refused to answer questions didn't mean the answers he was hiding would incriminate him. However the government lawyers questioned him so skillfully that he was forced to state the reason he wasn't answering: "I claim the right not to incriminate myself."
Under American civil law, the court and the jury may infer guilt from repeated invocation of the Fifth Amendment.