Imelda Marcos’ jewellery becomes a public awareness campaign against corruption

The government of the Philippines shows the images of Imelda Marcos’ jewels in a remarkable anti-corruption campaign.

A tiara adorned with diamonds and precious gemstones could fund treatment of over 12,000 people affected by tuberculosis, while a sapphire and diamond necklace could provide electricity to 2,252 households in off-grid areas. In order to raise people’s awareness on corruption and abuse of power, the government of the Philippines launched a very uncommon campaign. Major national newspapers published the pictures of the jewellery once owned by the family of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Each piece of jewellery is accompanied by a description of how the cost could instead be turned into initiatives and services to improve citizens’ lives.


A story of excesses

The initiative named Virtual Jewelry Exhibit, a Story of Excesses: What could have fuelled a nation’s development, launched by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and gone viral on Philippine social networks, aims to show new generations the excesses of the Marcoses, forced to flee the country following a popular revolution in 1986. Marcoses’ corrupted and violent governance, accused of having accumulated over 10 billion dollars in properties, jewels, money, and precious objects, made history mainly thanks to the then First Lady Imelda. Her unbridled love for luxury translated into a collection of more than 2,700 shoes, 4,000 designer dresses, and hundreds of works of art and precious gemstones: a real treasure – made legendary by a rare pink diamond worth 5 million dollars – found in the presidential palace in the aftermath of the revolution, and declared as a universal heritage in 1998.


The Marcoses are in the running

The Presidential Commission’s campaign comes just a few weeks before the elections in May that see three members of the Marcos family becoming candidates for key roles, which could bring them back to the Philippine political scene. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known as Bongbong, is currently a senator and is running for the vice-presidency. His sister runs for becoming governor and Imelda Marcos hopes to be re-elected at the Philippine Congress. As a response to the campaign, Ferdinand Marcos accused the Commission of undermining his political career.


Imelda Marcos ai funerali di papa Paolo VI © Keystone/Getty Images
Imelda Marcos at the funerals of Pope Paul VI © Keystone/Getty Images

The Steel Butterfly accused of corruption

Imelda – the Steel Butterfly who accompanied for over 25 years the dictator who made the Philippines the most corrupted country in South Asia – faced many lawsuits after Ferdinand died in 1989. Most of them were linked to corruption, despite she always denied it. “They went into my closets looking for skeletons,” she said. “But thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes”.

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