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