Rogelio Roxas

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Rogelio Roxas
Born 1943 or 1944
Died May 25, 1993 (aged 49 or 50)
Philippines
Other names Roger Roxas
Occupation Soldier, Locksmith
Known for Discovering a portion of Yamashita treasure

Rogelio "Roger" Domingo Roxas (died May 25, 1993) was a former Filipino soldier who had worked as a locksmith before allegedly discovering in a cave north of Manila a hidden chamber full of gold bars and a giant golden Buddha statue — which Roxas estimated to weigh one metric ton — on a plot of state-owned land near Baguio General Hospital, in Baguio City on January 24, 1971.[1] Roxas claimed that the Buddha's head was removable and that it concealed a hollowed-out portion within the statue that contained at least two handfuls of uncut diamonds. The cache was alleged to be a portion of the legendary treasure.

Seizure of gold[edit]

On April 6 1971, Roxas claimed that armed men purportedly from the National Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigation Service forcibly confiscated the gold bars and statue from his home in Aurora Hill, Baguio City.[1][2][3] On April 19, 1971, the military deposited a Buddha statue at the Baguio City Court; however, Roxas proclaimed that it was not the same statue taken from him. Roxas later claimed that then-President Ferdinand Marcos orchestrated the raid and was in possession of the treasure. Roxas was arrested in Cabanatuan City by three men in civilian clothing on May 18, 1971 and jailed for several years.[2]

Roxas v. Marcos lawsuit[edit]

In March 1988, a US lawsuit was filed by Rogelio Roxas against former Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos. Roxas alleged that he was a treasure hunter who in 1971 was searching for Yamashita's gold. In determining whether there was sufficient evidence to support Roxas' claim, the court considered the following evidence and testimony submitted by Roxas:[4]

Sometime in 1970, Roxas’s group began digging on state lands near the Baguio General Hospital. After approximately seven months of searching and digging “24 hours a day,” the group broke into a system of underground tunnels. Inside the tunnels, the group found wiring, radios, bayonets, rifles, and a human skeleton wearing a Japanese army uniform. After several weeks spent digging and exploring within the tunnels, Roxas’s group discovered a ten-foot thick concrete enclosure in the floor of the tunnel. On January 24, 1971, the group broke through the enclosure. Inside, Roxas discovered a gold-colored buddha statue, which he estimated to be about three feet in height. The statue was extremely heavy; it required ten men to transport it to the surface using a chain block hoist, ropes and rolling logs. Although he never weighed the statue Roxas estimated its weight to be 1 tonne. Roxas directed his laborers to transport the statue to his home and place it in a closet. Roxas also found a large pile of boxes underneath the concrete enclosure, approximately fifty feet from where the buddha statue had been discovered. He returned the next day and opened one small box, which contained twenty-four one-inch by two-and-one-half-inch bars of gold. Roxas estimated that the boxes were, on average, approximately the size of a case of beer and that they were stacked five or six feet high, over an area six feet wide and thirty feet long. Roxas did not open any of the other boxes. Several weeks later, Roxas returned to blast the tunnel closed, planning to sell the buddha statue in order to obtain funds for an operation to remove the remaining treasure. Before blasting the tunnel closed, Roxas removed the twenty-four bars of gold, as well as some samurai swords, bayonets and other artifacts. Roxas twice attempted to report his find to Judge Marcos, but was unsuccessful in contacting him. During the following weeks, Roxas sold seven of the gold bars and sought a buyer for the golden buddha. Roxas testified that Kenneth Cheatham, the representative of one prospective buyer, drilled a small hole under the arm of the buddha and assayed the metal. The test revealed the statue to be solid twenty-two carat gold. Roxas also testified that a second prospective buyer, Luis Mendoza, also tested the metal of the statue using nitric acid and concluded that it was “more than 20 carats.”

Roxas went on to allege that after he discovered the treasure, he was arrested by Marcos, the treasure was seized, and he was tortured. After his release, Roxas died under suspicious circumstance, creating the impression that he might have been murdered. The lawsuit was asserted by his estate and The Golden Budha [sic] Corporation, a company formed for the purpose of asserting Roxas' rights to the treasure. In 1996, a jury in Honolulu awarded $22 billion in compensatory damages that after the jury verdict increased with interest to over $40 billion. The jury did not award punitive damages. On November 17, 1998, the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the $41 billion judgment against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. A justice department statistical bulletin on civil verdicts claims that the court found insufficient evidence that Roxas had actually discovered the gold bullion while treasure hunting north of Manila in 1971.[5] However, the actual judicial decision of the court only cites insufficient evidence to establish the quantity and quality of the gold bullion found and left in the concrete chamber: "...there was insufficient evidence to support an award of damages for such gold bullion as may have been contained in the unopened boxes allegedly found by Roxas, inasmuch as the record was speculative regarding the gold’s quantity and purity..."[4] Furthermore, the Court sustained the portion of the verdict that found that Marcos had stolen the golden buddha and 17 bars of gold (the 24 bars Roxas took out of the chamber minus the seven that he sold). With respect to this claim, the Hawaii Supreme Court specifically found as follows: 1) “There was sufficient evidence to support the jury's special finding that Ferdinand converted the treasure that Roxas found”; and 2) “There was sufficient evidence to support the jury's determination that Roxas "found" the treasure pursuant to Philippine law.” The case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial on the value of the converted golden buddha statue and gold bars.

On February 28, 2000, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine the value of the golden buddha and the 17 bars of gold.[6] Currently, Felix Dacanay, as the personal representative of Roxas' estate, has a judgment against Imelda Marcos in her personal capacity to the extent of her interest in the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos in the principal amount of $6 million for the human rights claims concerning Roxas' arrest and torture, and the Golden Budha Corp. has a judgment against Imelda Marcos in her personal capacity to the extent of her interest in the Marcos estate in the principal amount of $13,275,848.37 on the claim of the converted treasure.[7][8][9] That judgment was ordered affirmed by the Hawaii Supreme Court on November 25, 2005.[10] In a related legal proceeding in 2006, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal while describing the findings of the Roxas v. Marcos litigation stated: "The Yamashita Treasure was discovered by Roxas and stolen from Roxas by Marcos’s men."[9]

Roxas's eldest son Jose petitioned the Baguio court in 1995 to release the statue to him as a memento of his father's treasure-hunting days. Jose also declared in court that his father never found a golden Buddha.[3]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

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