But will she go to prison?
Over three decades after her family was forced into exile by a popular revolt, Imelda Marcos has been convicted of crimes committed during her husband’s dictatorial regime.
The Sandiganbayan found Marcos guilty of seven counts of graft in connection with private organizations she set up in Switzerland when she was a government official from 1968 to 1986. Each count carries from six to 11 years in prison.
Victims of the Marcos regime, however, know the country’s judicial system well enough not to celebrate prematurely. The case is expected to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and the former first lady and her family have a formidable stable of lawyers known to be influential with the courts.
At 89 – and much older if ever the conviction is affirmed with finality – Marcos might also be spared by sympathetic magistrates of incarceration. The conviction for simple graft allows her to post bail. She is also expected to pursue her bid for reelection as congresswoman representing the second district of her husband’s bailiwick, Ilocos Norte, even if the sentence permanently disqualifies her from holding public office.
Still, the conviction sets a precedent for other cases pending against the heirs of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The world, for example, has been confounded by the seizure of millions of dollars established to be ill-gotten and deposited in Swiss banks, and the Philippines’ failure to hold anyone accountable for the crime. Switzerland has turned over the deposits to the Philippine government, but no one has been brought to justice for the plunder.
The former first lady is still fighting efforts of the government to seize her collection of priceless paintings by the Masters. No president of this republic and his wife can ever earn on an honest wage in their entire lifetime the enormous sums needed to buy even one of those paintings. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also has in its safekeeping a king’s ransom in jewelry confiscated from the Marcoses as they fled the country.
And yet Ferdinand Marcos is buried at the heroes’ cemetery, and no Marcos has ever been convicted of corruption – until now. The question is whether Imelda Marcos will ever actually suffer the penalty for graft, or if her conviction will turn out to be nothing but a farce.