IMELDA GETS 77 YEARS BUT JAIL TIME DOUBTED

Those who fought the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship are skep­ti­cal the for­mer first lady will be im­pris­oned due to the te­dious le­gal process in­volved in af­firm­ing her con­vic­tion. Her lawyer plans to ask the court to re­con­sider its ver­dict.

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - STORY BY THE IN­QUIRER STAFF

Cau­tious ju­bi­la­tion greeted the Sandi­gan­bayan’s ver­dict on Fri­day find­ing for­mer first lady Imelda Mar­cos guilty of graft and sen­tenc­ing her to a max­i­mum of 77 years in prison nearly three decades af­ter the charges were filed against her.

Op­po­nents of the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship wel­comed the de­ci­sion but they also ex­pressed doubts the rul­ing could be car­ried out un­der the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In hand­ing down its judg­ment, the anti­graft court also or­dered the ar­rest of the 89-yearold widow of dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos but al­lowed her to post bail of a still un­spec­i­fied amount. She was also told to ex­plain to the court in 30 days why she was ab­sent when it an­nounced its judg­ment.

Seven counts

The court ruled she was guilty in seven of the 10 graft cases filed against her from 1991 to 1995 in con­nec­tion with Swiss foun­da­tions she and her hus­band es­tab­lished and used to stash at least $200 mil­lion abroad while she was a mem­ber of the de­funct Batasang Pam­bansa, Metro Manila gover­nor and min­is­ter of hu­man set­tle­ments.

The Ilo­cos Norte rep­re­sen­ta­tive was sen­tenced to serve six to 11 years in prison for each count.

Her con­vic­tion could still be ap­pealed. If it is af­firmed by a higher court, she will be per­pet­u­ally barred from pub­lic of­fice, which would be highly un­likely be­fore the May 2019 polls where she has reg­is­tered to run to re­place her daugh­ter, Imee Mar­cos, as gover­nor of Ilo­cos Norte prov­ince.

In a state­ment re­leased by her of­fice, Mar­cos said her lawyer “in­tends to file a mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion.”

In a state­ment, the group Cam­paign Against the Re­turn of the Mar­coses and Mar­tial Law (Car­mma) said “par­tial jus­tice ap­peared to have been won by the Filipino peo­ple against plun­der­ers.”

“While Car­mma, to­gether with the Mar­cos’ vic­tims dur­ing their in­fa­mous reign of ter­ror and plun­der, re­joice at this guilty judg­ment against Imelda Mar­cos, we com­mit to con­tinue press­ing on to pur­sue the strug­gle for jus­tice, and fight against tyranny and end im­punity,” it added.

Hu­man rights group Kara­p­atan also hailed the ver­dict but was skep­ti­cal that Mar­cos would serve jail time, cit­ing two rea­sons: “1) the cur­rent regime’s cod­dling and po­lit­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Mar­coses and 2) the machi­na­tions of the Mar­coses to evade ac­count­abil­ity.”

Alias Jane and Wil­liam

“We la­ment that it had to take 32 long years since the ouster of Mar­cos to at­tain such a rul­ing un­der the Philip­pine jus­tice sys­tem,” Kara­p­atan said.

As­sis­tant Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor Ryan Quilala said de­spite Mar­cos’ ac­quit­tal in the three other cases, “this is still a vic­tory” af­ter a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle that be­gan “when I was not yet a lawyer.”

He said Mar­cos used the alias Jane Ryan and her hus­band Wil­liam Saun­ders to form seven foun­da­tions that fun­neled $200 mil­lion to se­cret Swiss bank ac­counts.

The Supreme Court in 2003 de­ter­mined that the dic­ta­tor and his wife to­gether only had a law­ful in­come equiv­a­lent to $304,000 from 1966 to 1986, but their Swiss bank ac­counts held about $680 mil­lion.

Re­cov­ered bil­lions

The Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion on Good Gov­ern­ment has re­cov­ered P170.45 bil­lion of the es­ti­mated $5 bil­lion to $10 bil­lion in al­leged ill-got­ten wealth plun­dered by the Mar­coses.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Sal­vador Panelo said the ver­dict “un­der­scores that our coun­try cur­rently has a work­ing and im­par­tial jus­tice sys­tem that fa­vors no one.”

He said the rul­ing was a “good re­minder to all pub­lic ser­vants that pub­lic of­fice is a pub­lic trust,” adding that the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion re­spected the court’s de­ci­sion and would not in­ter­fere with or in­flu­ence a co­equal branch of gov­ern­ment.

Early Christ­mas gift

The mil­i­tant la­bor group Buk­lu­ran ng Mang­ga­gawang Pilipino (BMP) said the court’s de­ci­sion was “an early Christ­mas gift” to Filipinos.

“A long­stand­ing prayer of the peo­ple has been an­swered. But then again it will be safe to say that with the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s close affin­ity with the Mar­coses, Imelda will be par­doned un­con­di­tion­ally,” said BMP chair Leody de Guz­man.

Bayan Muna chair Neri Col­menares lamented that Mar­cos wasn’t im­me­di­ately ar­rested.

“Ac­tivists and pro­gres­sives would be nabbed right away and ev­i­dence would even be planted against them or they would be killed, but au­thor­i­ties treated pow­er­ful peo­ple like the Mar­coses like ba­bies,” he said.

Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines found­ing chair Jose Maria Si­son, who led the armed strug­gle against Mar­cos, wel­comed the court’s “ap­par­ently in­de­pen­dent-minded” de­ci­sion.

But at the Supreme Court, “friends of Digong (Pres­i­dent Duterte) can still re­verse the de­ci­sion,” Si­son told the In­quirer in an in­ter­view from Utrecht, the Nether­lands, where he lives in ex­ile.

ACT Teach­ers Rep. An­to­nio Tinio said it could be ar­gued that “the de­ci­sion was too lit­tle, too late.”

‘Al­ter­na­tive facts’

“Nev­er­the­less, a guilty ver­dict is a guilty ver­dict,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hon­tiveros called the Sandi­gan­bayan de­ci­sion “an im­por­tant les­son in jus­tice.”

“The Mar­coses may be able to tem­po­rar­ily evade ac­count­abil­ity, they may be able, for the mo­ment, to cheat his­tory and white­wash their crimes with the use of ‘al­ter­na­tive facts’ and fake news, they may climb their way back to power and even hide be­hind the back of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, but jus­tice will even­tu­ally push its way through their walls of im­punity,” she said.

Sen. Fran­cis Pangili­nan wel­comed the Sandi­gan­bayan’s de­ci­sion find­ing Mar­cos guilty of “ex­ploit­ing her po­si­tion to steal the peo­ple’s money and be­tray­ing their trust.”

Faith­ful re­minder

“The Sandi­gan­bayan con­vic­tion is a faith­ful re­minder that the Mar­coses have plun­dered the na­tion’s wealth and have stolen from the peo­ple, no mat­ter how much ef­forts to re­vise his­tory are done by the Mar­cos fam­ily and their co­horts,” he said in a state­ment.

The judg­ment against Mar­cos was handed down more than 30 years af­ter the charges against her were in­ves­ti­gated, noted Sen. Pan­filo Lac­son.

“Her con­vic­tion is still sub­ject to ap­peal. Re­gard­less of the ver­dict, jus­tice is the clear vic­tim,” Lac­son said.

The Mar­coses may be able to tem­po­rar­ily evade ac­count­abil­ity, they may be able, for the mo­ment, to cheat his­tory and white­wash their crimes with the use of ‘al­ter­na­tive facts’ and fake news, they may climb their way back to power and even hide be­hind the back of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, but jus­tice will even­tu­ally push its way through their walls of im­punity Risa Hon­tiveros Sen­a­tor

PHOTOBY LYNRILLON

—AFP

HEIGHT OF POWER Then first lady Imelda Mar­cos with Pres­i­dent Fer­di­nand Mar­cos in a Nov. 15, 1985 file photo, dur­ing a Manila event for col­lege stu­dents un­der­go­ing com­pul­sory mil­i­tary train­ing.

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