A treasure map leads to a golden Buddha—and more.
For Roxas, the road to justice was long, winding and often bloody, as he related in his pre-trial deposition. In 1961, he said, he’d met a man whose father served in the Japanese Army and had drawn a map showing where the so-called Yamashita Treasure was hidden. Soon another man, who claimed to have been Yamashita’s interpreter, told Roxas he’d visited tunnels filled with boxes of gold and silver during the war. He’d also seen a golden Buddha.
In 1970, Roxas obtained a permit from Pio Marcos, a local judge and relative of Ferdinand Marcos, to begin excavating one site. Along with a team of laborers, he spent the next seven months searching the area and digging “24 hours a day” until they finally hit a network of underground tunnels. Inside they found weapons, radios and skeletal remains in a Japanese uniform. They continued digging, and several weeks later came upon a concrete enclosure in the floor of a tunnel.
When they broke into it, they were greeted by the golden Buddha.
Roxas estimated the statue to be about three feet tall and to weigh well over a ton. He said it took 10 men, with the aid of ropes and rolling logs, to hoist it from the tunnel. They then hauled the Buddha to Roxas’s house in Baguio City, about 150 miles north of Manila, and hid it in a closet.
Over the next two days Roxas returned to the tunnel to see what else it might contain. Beneath the concrete enclosure, he said, he discovered a pile of boxes, each “approximately the size of a case of beer,” stacked five or six high and covering an area six feet wide by 30 feet long. When he opened just one of the boxes, he found it held 24 bars of gold.
Several weeks later, Roxas went back to the tunnels to blast the entrance shut. Before he did, he packed up the 24 gold bars, along with some Samurai swords and other war souvenirs he thought he could sell.
Roxas made no effort to conceal his historic find. He said he tried to report it to Judge Marcos but wasn’t able to reach him. He posed with the Buddha for at least one newspaper photographer and showed it to several prospective buyers—two of whom, he claimed, performed tests on the metal and declared it to be solid gold of at least 22 carats.
As if a ton of gold wasn’t valuable enough, Roxas also discovered that the Buddha’s head was removable and that hidden inside the statue were several handfuls of what appeared to be uncut diamonds.
But the young treasure hunter’s good fortune was about to end. At 2:30 a.m. on April 5, 1971, a group of men in military uniforms came knocking. They showed Roxas a paper they claimed was a search warrant bearing Judge Marcos’ signature. After beating Roxas’ brother with their rifles and terrorizing the rest of the family, the men left. They took with them the Buddha, the diamonds, 17 gold bars (he’d sold seven others), the Samurai swords, a coin collection belonging to his wife and even his children’s piggy bank.
Roxas went to the local police and to the media with his story. He confronted Judge Marcos, who told him he’d signed the search warrant on orders from Ferdinand.
The judge also hinted that Roxas’ life was now in danger from Marcos’ security forces. Roxas went into hiding for several weeks but emerged on April 29 after the military turned over a Buddha statue to the local court. Men purporting to represent Ferdinand Marcos’ mother offered him 3 million pesos, about $470,000 at the time, if he would say that the Buddha was the one that had been taken from him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close. Among other things, the bogus Buddha was a different color and its head wasn’t detachable. Roxas refused.
The following month, Roxas was arrested and held captive for several weeks. Hoping to persuade him to sign an affidavit that the raid on his home had been “performed in a peaceful manner” and to provide details on the location of the treasure, soldiers shocked him with wires attached to a large battery, burned him with cigarettes and beat him unconscious with a rubber mallet. Ultimately, he signed the affidavit but refused to tell them more about the hidden tunnels.
Roxas escaped his captors, who seem to have forgotten he was a locksmith, by picking a window lock. But Marcos and his henchmen weren’t done with him. In July 1972, he was arrested again and subjected to more beatings and interrogations. He wouldn’t be freed until November 1974.
NU’NG 14 na taong martial law ni President Ferdinand Marcos, bawal kumontra sa kanya. Sa dahas, pagkulong sa oposisyon, at pagkontrol sa media naitago ang katotohanan. Kinukulimbat nila ni first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos ang yaman ng bansa. Nilikom nila ang gold bars sa Central Bank at mga minahan. Binigyan sila ng business cronies ng stock shares at bilyong-piso mula sa behest loans sa kanila ng mga banko ng gobyerno. Nang-agaw at namili sila ng mga lupain at mansiyon sa Baguio, Manila, Ilocos, Pangasinan, Leyte, pati sa America at Europe. Sa malimit na shopping sprees sa Paris, Hong Kong, at New York nagwaldas si Imelda ng daan-daang milyong dolyar sa alahas, gowns, sapatos, relos, handbags, at masterpiece sculptures at paintings. Sinsilyo lang ang daan-daang milyon pa sa Swiss bank accounts nila. Samantala, nanlupaypay ang ekonomiya; laganap ang karalitaan.
Tinatayang $30 bilyon ang dinambong ng Conjugal Dictatorship. Wala pang $10 bilyon ang nabawi ng Presidential Commission on Good Government. Maraming doble ang halaga ngayon ng itinagong nakaw.
Hindi ikinakaila ni Imelda ang yaman nila. Sa maraming interbyu pinagmamalaki pa niya na balang araw pakikinabangan ito ng mundo.
Kasalukuyang dapa ang kabuhayan ng Pilipino dahil sa COVID-19 pandemic. Nagkukumahog ang gobyerno sa pondo para matuklas, i-test, ihiwalay, at gamutin lahat ng impektado. Kailangan ding paandarin muli ang ekonomiya sa pamamagitan ng infrastructure projects, ang “Build, Build, Build”. Saan makukuha ang pera para ru’n?
Nariyan ang pera na tinangay ng Marcoses mula sa bayan. Bawiin ito – ngayon na. Gamitin sa kabutihan ng bansa at sangkatauhan.
Nasaan ito? May ebidensiya na nakatago sa Banko Sentral, PCGG, Ombudsman, at Sandiganbayan. Meron din sa archives ng San Jose Mercury News (California) na nagbulgar nito. Kausapin ng gobyerno si Imelda. Dalawang cabinet members ay mga abogado niya.
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