Philippine Police Await Arrest Warrant for Former First Lady Imelda Marcos

Luis Liwanag
181112-PH-Marcos-1000.jpg Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos arrives at the Commission on Elections in Manila to lend her support for her daughter, Gov. Imee Marcos, who filed her certificate of candidacy for a Senate seat in the May 2019 elections, Oct. 16, 2018.

Updated at 6:11 p.m. on 2018-11-12

Philippine authorities said Monday they would not yet arrest convicted former First Lady Imelda Marcos, despite a court convicting her of large-scale graft punishable by more than 40 years in prison.

National police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told reporters that officials would first consider the health of the 89-year-old Marcos matriarch, who was convicted of creating false Swiss bank accounts to hide millions in dollars plundered from state coffers.

“We have to take into consideration her advanced age. In any arrest (of) anybody for that matter, that has to be taken (into) consideration, the age, the health,” Albayalde said, referring to Imelda Marcos.

His statement came as many Filipinos, including rights victims who suffered under the brutal two-decade regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, waited to see whether the flamboyant ex-first lady would be booked and taken to jail.

Albayalde said he had asked the head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to be ready to serve the warrant once released. As of early evening Monday, however, it appeared that Marcos would not be arrested, three days after the graft court Sandiganbayan handed down the sentence.

While the case is bailable and can be appealed, legal experts have argued that under the law, Marcos should be arrested and booked first.

But the Marcoses are known to be close to President Rodrigo Duterte, a self-confessed fan of the late dictator who has credited his 2016 win partly on the clan's political support.

Pictures of Mrs. Marcos with the president's daughter at a birthday party circulated on social media.

The Marcos family had issued a statement that she would appeal the case.

In stark contrast with Trillanes’ case

The police’s light-handed approach on the Marcos matriarch was in stark contrast to how they had recently treated Sen. Antonio Trillanes, whose criticism of Duterte’s deadly drug war had angered the president.

Duterte had issued a proclamation revoking an amnesty granted to Trillanes, who led failed rebellions against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But Duterte’s order to arrest Trillanes backfired because the courts did not side with him.

“For Trillanes, it was just a pre-emptive measure in case that something really comes out. For this, we are not seeing any possible problems because, first of all, she is old, and a woman,” Albayalde said, explaining why Marcos was not a flight risk.

Rights group Karapatan slammed Albayalde’s statement, noting that it had documented many cases of elderly and sickly political detainees in the country.

“Imelda and the Marcos family should be jailed,” Karapatan said in a statement. “They continue to be the face of impunity in the country, coddled by this equally-murderous and vindictive regime. The Duterte government is just as accountable for allowing these parasites to return to power.”

Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the anti-graft court's decision was not yet final and Marcos could pursue legal actions to counter the ruling, which he had earlier described as proof that the justice system worked in the country.

But opposition politicians urged the police to make the arrest.

“She cannot avail of the probation law because the penalty carried by her case is more than six years,” former Rep. Neri Colmenares told reporters.

Another lawmaker, Carlos Zarate, said the court’s decision put "to rest the Marcos family’s contention that they have not amassed ill-gotten wealth nor plundered the country’s coffers during their reign.”

“Many would be happy with this decision but it would be better if the Marcoses also return all their ill-gotten wealth to the Filipino people,” he said.

Imelda Marcos and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines after Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in 1989, three years after he was toppled by a “people power” revolution.

She led the family in regaining lost political clout and is the outgoing congresswoman in the northern province of Ilocos Norte, where daughter Imee is the outgoing governor.

Imee is running for a Senate seat and Imelda is looking to replace her as governor in next year’s polls. Meanwhile, Imee's brother, Ferdinand Jr., is contesting the vice presidency he narrowly lost two years ago.

Thousands went missing or were killed during Marcos’ two-decade regime, and anti-graft investigators had accused the family raiding state coffers of up to $10 billion.

The discovery of some 3,000 pairs of shoes left behind at the basement of Imelda’s bedroom provided a jarring reminder of the opulence and extravagance of the Marcos family, while millions of Filipinos went hungry under the bankrupt government.

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City and Karl Romano in Dagupan City contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly reported that pictures of Imelda Marcos attending a birthday party for Duterte's eldest daughter circulated on social media after the ruling was handed down on Friday.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.