Sandigan orders her arrest for graft
The Sandiganbayan yesterday found former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos guilty of graft and ordered her arrest in a rare conviction among many corruption cases that she's likely to appeal to avoid jail and losing her seat at the House of Representatives.
The Sandiganbayan sentenced the incumbent Ilocos Norte representative who is now 89years-old to serve six to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when she illegally funneled about $200 million (about ₱10 billion) to Swiss foundations in the 1970s as Metro Manila governor.
Neither Marcos nor anyone representing her attended yesterday’s court hearing. No one has issued any reaction on her behalf although her lawyers were expected to appeal the ruling, which anti-Marcos activists and human rights victims welcomed as long overdue.
The Sandiganbayan disqualified Marcos from holding public office, but she can remain a member of the House while appealing the decision. Her congressional term will end next year but she has registered to run to replace her daughter Imee R. Marcos as governor of Ilocos Norte.
"I was jumping up and down in joy in disbelief," said former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, who was among many activists locked up after Imelda's husband, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, declared martial law in the Philippines in 1972.
Rosales said the decision was a huge setback to efforts by the Marcos family to revise history by denying many of the atrocities under the dictatorship, and urged Filipinos to fight all threats against democracy and civil liberties.
Imelda's husband was ousted by an Army-backed People Power Revolution in 1986. He died in self-exile in Hawaii in 1989 but his widow and children returned to the Philippines. Most have been elected to public offices in an impressive political comeback.
Government prosecutor Ryan Quilala said that Imelda and her husband opened and managed Swiss foundations in violation of the Philippine Constitution, using aliases in a bid to hide stolen funds. The Marcoses have been accused of plundering the government's coffers amid crushing poverty. They have denied any wrongdoing and have successfully fought many other corruption cases.
Imelda was acquitted in three other cases yesterday, which were filed in 1991 and took nearly three decades of trial by several judges and prosecutors. She was once convicted of a graft case in 1993, but the Supreme Court later cleared her of any wrongdoing.
President Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, said last year the Marcos family had indicated a willingness to return a still unspecified amount of money and "a few gold bars" to help ease budget deficits. He indicated the family still denied that the assets had been stolen as alleged by political opponents.
President Marcos imposed martial rule a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked Congress, ordered the arrest of political rivals and Left-wing activists, and ruled by decree. His family is said to have amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion (around ₱530 billion) while he was in power.
A Hawaii court found Marcos liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion (₱105 billon) from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances.
Duterte has acknowledged that Imee backed his presidential candidacy.