How an Imelda sidekick (and fellow crook) just did us a favor
I’ve gotten so tired of reading about corruption cases involving the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family that I must confess I simply tuned out reports over the past year about Vilma Bautista.
But then came this week’s news that Imelda’s 75-year-old former assistant could end up in jail for up to six years for hawking valuable art masterpieces acquired by the Marcoses during their 20-year reign of plunder.
A New York Daily News even showed a photo of Bautista, a couple of the paintings she allegedly stole and tried to sell, and an invoice of one of the sales.
And of course, there’s Imelda.
And once again, there’s the annoying, embarrassing description of Imelda as the one-time better-half of the conjugal dictatorship that wreaked havoc on the Philippines — who is now an elected legislator.
Actually, in some cases, it’s not even necessary to explain who Imelda is. Many Americans know her. They know what she and Marcos did. They know about the shoes. They know about the greed.
I once mentioned Imelda in a story, explaining who she is, and a reader posted a comment that essentially said, ‘This writer thinks we’re so stupid and uninformed that he has to explain Imelda Marcos.’
But nowadays, of course, there’s that part about Imelda now being an elected official and the question it inevitably raises: ‘Oh, so after everything she and her husband did, Filipinos still voted her back into power?’
Yep, that’s annoying, which is perhaps also a reason why I sometimes find myself simply ignoring reports on the latest Marcos stolen wealth story.
They’re just painful reminders that more than a quarter of a century after Filipinos kicked out a dictator, former prominent characters from dark chapter are back in power.
But that’s essentially a narrow way of seeing things. In fact, that’s how Imelda and the Marcos want us to view things.
In an odd twist, we can actually thank Madame Vilma Bautista, secretary-sidekick-turned-high-priced-art-dealer-turned-convict for reminding us of what happened, of what we accomplished as a nation, of what we got rid of 28 years ago.
It’s a wild, crazy story, and I hope indie filmmakers are already drafting plans to turn it into a movie.
Here’s this longtime, trusted Imelda aide hawking priceless art works bought by a dictator and his wife using wealth plundered from the Philippines.
When she’s caught she offers a boneheaded excuse: ‘Oh, ma’am asked me to sell them. I just haven’t had time to turn over the proceeds to her. I’m so busy, eh.’
“It’s a hilariously entertaining story: a crook stealing from a crook.”
Now notice how one voice has been absent in the reports on this case: Vilma’s boss.
For one can imagine Imelda fuming over this case which erupted last year and which, unfortunately for the Marcoses, ruined the storyline that they were effectively trying to sell to Filipinos.
It’s the story that goes: ‘Sure we were corrupt. But look at these other trapos in power. They’re also corrupt. That’s the way it is.’
Instead, the case of Vilma Bautista turned the spotlight on the bigger, more complete picture: the Marcos regime was so corrupt, so greedy that more than 25 years after Filipinos overthrew it, we are still digging up examples of just how corrupt and greed it was.
You can almost imagine an outraged Imelda crying out: ‘You stupid Vilma! Didn’t I teach you how to steal – even from me – without being caught! You ruined everything!’
The fight against fascist tyranny was won. But the fight against corrupt politics continues.
In fact, it must continue if we don’t want to repeat Marcos-level plunder and abuse.
And we have Vilma Bautista and her greed to thank for this timely reminder.
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