Sandiganbayan finds former first lady Imelda Marcos guilty of graft

Former first lady Imelda Marcos has been found guilty of seven counts of graft. photo by Boy Santos

FORMER Philippine first lady and current Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos  on Friday, November 9 has been found guilty on several graft offenses that occurred during her husband’s regime.

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division issued its decision and sentenced the Marcos matriarch to imprisonment of six years and one month to 11 years for each count with perpetual disqualification from public office for using her Cabinet position to maintain Swiss bank accounts when her husband, the late Ferdinand Marcos, was president.

The former first lady violated Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa and the then Minister of Human Settlements, the court found.

During the Marcos rule, estimates have said that the family plundered $10 billion, of which $4 billion has been recovered to date.

Associate Justice Rafael Lagos ordered the release of a warrant of arrest but Marcos failed to appear before the court for the sentencing. The court gave her 30 days or a month to explain her absence. The court’s decision earned praise from critics and human rights advocates after the almost three decades of its filing in the Office of the Ombudsman back in 1991.

Malacañang said that Marcos’ conviction should be a “good reminder” for elected officials.

“We treat this decision by the anti-graft court as a good reminder to all public servants that public office is a public trust and that we are all accountable to the people we serve,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Friday.

He added that Malacañang would not interfere with the legal proceedings, saying “this latest development underscores that our country currently has a working and impartial justice system that favors no one.”

LP, rights group laud the court’s decision

Following the announcement on Friday, several lawmakers and groups welcomed the decision.

Liberal Party President Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan expressed his worry that Marcos might receive special treatment in the whole judicial process.  

“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,” Pangilinan said, adding that

“We hope our courts will see this through conviction and give no special treatment to Mrs. Marcos.

As reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia called the decision “a triumph for the Filipino people.”   

However, De Guia noted that all eyes would be on the said process to ensure that justice will be served among those who were killed, tortured and abused during the dark period of Martial law.

“The Commission stresses the need for truth so that we call ultimately hold the dictatorship and their cohorts accountable for their crimes. We will continue to be vigilant in this process in the interest of upholding justice for the victims of such transgressions. We will never forget,” she  added.

KARAPATAN, a human rights group and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), a labor group said that while they laud the Sandiganbayan decision, there is also a concern that President Rodrigo Duterte may grant Imelda Marcos a pardon for the seven counts of graft she committed.

“We are also ambivalent on the implementation of such a ruling based on two issues: 1) the current regime’s coddling and political rehabilitation of the Marcoses and 2) the machinations of the Marcoses to evade accountability,” KARAPATAN said in a statement.

BMP further added the administration may pardon Marcos for her “old age.”

The groups called out for the immediate arrest and imprisonment of Marcos as well as the return of the billions of public funds stolen by the Marcoses. 

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