‘Non-im­pris­on­ment for Imelda won’t di­min­ish guilt’

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS DIAZ

For­mer first lady Imelda Ro­mualdez-Mar­cos may es­cape im­pris­on­ment, but that does not di­min­ish her guilt, Al­bay Rep. Ed­cel Lag­man said yes­ter­day.

Lag­man, who lost a brother to mar­tial law abuses, said the con­vic­tion of the widow of the late strong­man Fer­di­nand Mar­cos “is an­other ju­di­cial con­fir­ma­tion of the in­or­di­nate cor­rup­tion per­pe­trated dur­ing the mar­tial law regime by the Mar­cos fam­ily and its cronies.”

“Even with­out im­me­di­ate im­pris­on­ment due to the avail­abil­ity of ap­peal, the con­vic­tion puts an end to im­punity for the Mar­coses. Con­vic­tion is an in­deli­ble as­cer­tain­ment of cul­pa­bil­ity, while im­pris­on­ment is an im­po­si­tion of a pe­nal sanc­tion, the de­fer­ment or non-ser­vice of which does not di­min­ish guilt,” he said.

Aside from con­vict­ing the for­mer first lady, the Sandi­gan­bayan has or­dered her ar­rest.

Law­mak­ers have urged the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice to im­me­di­ately take the Ilo­cos Norte con­gress­woman into its cus­tody.

They also urged Pres­i­dent Duterte not to give spe­cial treat­ment to Mrs. Mar­cos. The Mar­coses are ad­min­is­tra­tion al­lies.

Sens. Cyn­thia Vil­lar and Aquilino Pi­mentel II said Mrs. Mar­cos could still ap­peal her con­vic­tion to the Supreme Court (SC).

Vil­lar said the high court could take into con­sid­er­a­tion Mar­cos’ age and med­i­cal con­di­tion.

“(The de­ci­sion is still) sub­ject for ap­peal to the SC. At the same time, Mrs. Mar­cos is al­ready 89 years old and even in other coun­tries they will take the ripe old age into con­sid­er­a­tion. If ever, so I think they will ap­peal the con­vic­tion at the same time, the con­vic­tion could

not be im­ple­mented (be­cause of her age),” Vil­lar said over ra­dio dwIZ.

Pi­mentel, for his part, said the con­vic­tion of Mar­cos is a good de­vel­op­ment, though he ad­mit­ted the de­ci­sion is not yet fi­nal and ex­ecu­tory.

“She could ap­peal the con­vic­tion and of course, the courts will give her the chance to ap­peal. Even if the penalty car­ries per­pet­ual dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion to hold pub­lic of­fice, it would be un­fair to her,” Pi­mentel said.

There are spec­u­la­tions that the Pres­i­dent might even­tu­ally grant par­don to the for­mer first lady. In the past, there were re­ports that Duterte was will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with the Mar­cos fam­ily on the re­turn of their al­leged ill-got­ten wealth.

Lag­man, on the other hand, said no less than the SC “has re­peat­edly rec­og­nized and val­i­dated the enor­mous plun­der which the strong­man Mar­cos, his fam­ily and cronies com­mit­ted dur­ing the mar­tial law regime.”

He said even the Swiss Supreme Court, in a de­ci­sion dated Dec. 10, 1997, de­clared that “there was lit­tle doubt about the crim­i­nal prove­nance of the se­cret Mar­cos ac­counts and se­cu­ri­ties hid­den in the Swiss banks.”

“Like­wise, con­gres­sional con­fir­ma­tion of the pil­lage and atroc­i­ties dur­ing mar­tial law are un­mis­tak­able in Repub­lic Act No. 10368, or the Hu­man Rights Vic­tims Repa­ra­tion and Recog­ni­tion Act of 2013, and RA No. 10353 or the Anti En­forced or In­vol­un­tary Dis­ap­pear­ance Act of 2012,” Lag­man said.

The Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion on Good Gov­ern­ment (PCGG), the gov­ern­ment body tasked to go af­ter the hid­den wealth of the Mar­cos fam­ily and their cronies, said Mrs. Mar­cos may pur­sue le­gal reme­dies to ap­peal her con­vic­tion.

“We un­der­stand that the ac­cused still has avail­able le­gal reme­dies and we rec­og­nize right to pur­sue them in the proper fo­rum,” PCGG chair­man Reynold Mun­sayac said.

Mun­sayac hailed the Sandi­gan­bayan for the con­vic­tion of the for­mer first lady.

Mar­cos, known for her ex­ten­sive jewelry and shoe col­lec­tion, did not at­tend the pro­mul­ga­tion of judg­ment. Her camp said they would file a mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion on the rul­ing.

The 89-year-old Mar­cos was sen­tenced to serve 6 to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of graft when she il­le­gally fun­neled about $200 mil­lion to Swiss foun­da­tions in the 1970s as Met­ro­pol­i­tan Manila gover­nor.

The Sandi­gan­bayan also dis­qual­i­fied Mar­cos from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice, but she can re­main a mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives while ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion. Her con­gres­sional term will end next year but she has reg­is­tered to run to re­place her el­dest daugh­ter Imee as gover­nor of Ilo­cos Norte.

Fer­di­nand Mar­cos had placed the coun­try un­der 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 while he was in power.

A Hawaii court found the late dic­ta­tor li­able for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and awarded $2 bil­lion from his es­tate to com­pen­sate more than 9,000

Mar­cos Filipinos who filed a law­suit against him for torture, in­car­cer­a­tion, ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and dis­ap­pear­ances.

Mar­cos was ousted by a “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.

Jane Ryan and Wil­liam Saun­ders

The Sandi­gan­bayan said Mrs. Mar­cos and her late hus­band used pseu­do­nyms and dum­mies as well as money laun­der­ing in the sly scheme to con­ceal pub­lic funds ob­tained dur­ing their fam­ily’s two-decade rule.

Though Mrs. Mar­cos can still seek the re­ver­sal of the rul­ing through a mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion, the Sandi­gan­bayan, for now, is con­vinced that she and her fam­ily ben­e­fit­ted from bil­lions of dol­lars worth of pub­lic funds she and her late dic­ta­tor hus­band sup­pos­edly stashed in sev­eral foun­da­tions they cre­ated in Switzer­land.

The cases stemmed from Mrs. Mar­cos’ cre­ation of seven pri­vate foun­da­tions in Switzer­land when she was the Min­is­ter of Hu­man Set­tle­ments and con­cur­rent Metro Manila gover­nor from 1976 to 1986 and mem­ber of the In­terim Batasang Pam­bansa from 1978 to 1984.

The Of­fice of the Om­buds­man said Mrs. Mar­cos and her hus­band cre­ated the foun­da­tions to al­legedly fun­nel il­le­gally amassed gov­ern­ment funds dur­ing the mar­tial law.

The PCGG had ear­lier iden­ti­fied a to­tal of $658 mil­lion in de­posits in the con­ju­gal Swiss dol­lar ac­counts of the Mar­cos cou­ple, about $200 mil­lion of which were sup­pos­edly trans­ferred to the Swiss foun­da­tions.

In its rul­ing, the Fifth Divi­sion dis­missed Mar­cos’ ar­gu­ment that she and her late hus­band never gained fi­nan­cial in­ter­est from the Swiss foun­da­tions as th­ese were sup­pos­edly not busi­ness en­ti­ties op­er­at­ing for profit.

“Though named as a ‘foun­da­tion,’ the ev­i­dence shows that th­ese en­ti­ties were put up pri­mar­ily for the en­trepreneurial ac­tiv­ity of open­ing bank ac­counts and de­posits, trans­fer­ring funds, earn­ing in­ter­ests and even profit from in­vest­ment, for the pri­vate ben­e­fit of the Mar­cos fam­ily as ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” the Fifth Divi­sion’s de­ci­sion read.

The Fifth Divi­sion said a re­view of the by-laws and reg­u­la­tions of the foun­da­tions pre­sented by the pros­e­cu­tion dur­ing the course of the trial re­vealed that Mrs. Mar­cos and Mr. Mar­cos were named as the first ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the foun­da­tions “in their life­time” while their chil­dren Imee, Fer­di­nand “Bong­bong” Jr. and Irene were named as sec­ond ben­e­fi­cia­ries “in equal shares.”

The court said Mrs. Mar­cos also used the pseu­do­nym “Jane Ryan” while her hus­band the pseu­do­nym “Wil­liam Saun­ders” in sign­ing sev­eral doc­u­ments per­tain­ing to the bank trans­fers.

The Fifth Divi­sion specif­i­cally cited a hand­writ­ten let­ter of the late strong­man order­ing the clo­sure of Vibur Foun­da­tion and the trans­fer of its bank as­sets with Suisse Credit Bank to Xandy Foun­da­tion.

“Ba­si­cally, the names ‘Wil­liam Saun­ders’ and ‘Jane Ryan’ un­der Xandy Foun­da­tion re­ferred to Fer­di­nand Mar­cos and Imelda Mar­cos, re­spec­tively. It was shown that ear­lier con­tracts and doc­u­ments ex­e­cuted and signed by Mr. Mar­cos and Mrs. Mar­cos in 1968 for the open­ing of cur­rent ac­count/safe cus­tody with Credit Suisse used said pseu­do­nyms,” the court said.

The trial of the cases lasted for 17 years or from Jan­uary 2000 to March 2017, though the cases were filed in 1991.

The graft cases are apart from the civil for­fei­ture cases that the PCGG filed be­fore the Sandi­gan­bayan in 1987 seek­ing to re­cover an es­ti­mated $10 bil­lion worth of al­leged ill­got­ten wealth of the Mar­coses and their cronies, in­clud­ing paint­ings and jewelry col­lec­tions and shares in var­i­ous cor­po­ra­tions.

The Fifth Divi­sion, in its de­ci­sion, clar­i­fied that as to the re­cov­ery of the funds from the Swiss bank ac­counts, those are part of the pend­ing civil for­fei­ture cases pend­ing at the Sandi­gan­bayan’s Sec­ond Divi­sion.

A tire­less strug­gle

A group of stu­dents of the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines held a bon­fire at the cam­pus hours af­ter Mrs. Mar­cos was con­victed.

“We wel­come the guilty charges on Imelda Mar­cos, wife and di­rect bene­fac­tor from the atroc­i­ties of the late dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos that brought noth­ing to our na­tion but countless killings, dis­ap­pear­ances and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” said the uni­ver­sity-based anti-dic­ta­tor­ship and tyranny al­liance Uprise.

“This is a vic­tory of the peo­ple over time where we tire­lessly strug­gled to make sure that thieves and traitors to the na­tion will pay for their debt of stolen wealth and blood,” it added.

Two of­fi­cials of the Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of the Philip­pines (CBCP) said the wheels of jus­tice have ground slowly but they even­tu­ally led to the con­vic­tion of Mrs. Mar­cos.

Manila Aux­il­iary Bishop Brod­er­ick Pa­billo con­sid­ered it “good news” that af­ter all th­ese years of wait­ing, jus­tice has been served to the for­mer first lady.

“This is good news that she (Mrs. Mar­cos) has been con­victed. But it sad­dens me be­cause it took so long for the wheels of jus­tice, but then at least there is now a re­sult,” Pa­billo said.

Bataan Bishop Ru­perto San­tos also no­ticed that she was charged in 1991 and the de­ci­sion on the graft case only came some 27 years af­ter.

But de­spite the slow progress of the case, San­tos said he was pleased that jus­tice was still served. “Even it was very slow, yet jus­tice is served.”

San­tos said the quest for jus­tice should not stop with Mar­cos’ be­ing con­victed. He said the vic­tims should also be prop­erly com­pen­sated.

“There should be resti­tu­tions and repa­ra­tions. What was stolen must be re­turned, those (who) suf­fered be­cause of graft and cor­rup­tion should be com­pen­sated,” San­tos said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.