Philippine Court Grants Imelda Marcos Bail despite Graft Conviction

Jason Gutierrez and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila
2018-11-16
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181116-PH-marcos-620.jpg Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos (in pink jacket) takes the witness stand at an anti-graft court in Quezon city, near Manila, Nov. 16, 2018.
AP

A Philippine anti-graft court on Friday allowed former first lady Imelda Marcos to post bail following her conviction for corruption, angering rights groups and victims of her husband’s brutal regime who wanted her incarcerated at once.

The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court last week convicted Marcos, who skipped a hearing when the verdict was announced, of stashing about U.S. $200 million (10.5 billion pesos) in stolen money through Swiss foundations when she was governor of metropolitan Manila in the 1970s. The 89-year-old was ordered to serve a minimum of six years in prison for seven counts of graft.

On Friday, the court allowed Marcos to post a bail of 150,000 pesos ($2,830) to explore post-conviction remedies.

Marcos, who wore a pink jacket over a black blouse, was accompanied by daughter Imee Marcos and son Ferdinand Jr. to the jam-packed court.

Presiding Judge Rafael Lagos asked about her absence last week, commenting that Mrs. Marcos was able to attend her daughter’s birthday party on the same day as the verdict.

Pictures from the party showing Imelda Marcos with Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, circulated on social media and raised concerns that the family enjoyed the protection of the president.

Imelda Marcos gave conflicting answers, saying that “all the guests were already there” for the party after initially saying she had a doctor’s order to skip last week’s verdict.

Marcos presented a medical certification issued by her physician that said she suffered from ailments including respiratory and urinary tract infections. But she also said her cook had misplaced the court summons.

“If I knew about it your honor, I would have been right here right away,” Imelda Marcos said. “Even if I was sick, I would have come.”

Rights victims and anti-Marcos activists rejoiced after last week’s verdict, but many were disappointed that a full week passed and she remained free. The country’s national police chief recently commented that Imelda Marcos should be treated lightly because of her health.

Victims react

Etta Rosales, the former chief of the country’s Commission on Human Rights who was tortured and raped by Marcos forces in the 1970s, said she was disappointed by the court’s decision.

“It granted bail for Marcos pending the study of a post-conviction bail for her?” Rosales told BenarNews. “This sounds highly irregular. Is the court going through undue pressure for the Marcos family?”

She said sending Imelda Marcos to prison for monumental graft committed during her husband’s two-decade rule was long overdue.

“This is getting really tiresome. I feel that we should stick to the basics and not get bogged down by the lies they fabricate to reflect their arrogance and attitude toward this ruling,” she said. “They seem so cock-sure nothing will materialize from the decision.”

A group of rights victims who suffered under Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law, questioned the court’s actions.

“The series of events involving the conviction and the delay of her arrest are indicative of a climate of impunity that is complicit to the crimes of criminal masterminds in the government,” it said.

The group said it was enraged at how the family enjoy political patronage while the country, particularly those who suffered immensely under the dictatorship “continue to fight tooth and nail for justice and accountability.”

“Imelda Marcos and her entire family are plunderers and criminals. The Sandiganbayan conviction adds to the long list of evidence that proves the culpability of the Marcoses,” the group said.

Prolonged delays to haul Imelda Marcos to jail were “indicative of their deliberate protection of a criminal,” it said, referring to the government and the police.

The ruling last week also disqualified Imelda Marcos from holding public office, but it did not automatically bar her from her post as representing the family’s northern stronghold of Ilocos Norte in the House of Representatives.

Duterte support

Duterte, who openly admires the late Ferdinand Marcos, has publicly flaunted his alliance with the Marcos family. He has said Imee Marcos contributed financially to his successful campaign for the presidency two years ago.

As a payback, he ordered the transfer of the dictator’s remains to a heroes’ cemetery in Manila shortly after he took office, sparking angry protests. And while the Marcos family had repeatedly denied charges that they had plundered the state treasury, Duterte said last year they were willing to return “a few gold bars” and reveal their hidden accounts.

Ferdinand Marcos died in 1989 in Hawaii, three years after a “people power” revolt ended his dictatorship. Thousands of activists, politicians and ordinary Filipinos who opposed the regime were either killed or jailed in what was considered the darkest period in modern Philippine history.

The government allowed his survivors to return home shortly after his death, and Imelda Marcos lost no time in consolidating political power in the family’s base.

Imee Marcos is the outgoing governor there and is seeking a senate seat next year, while Ferdinand Jr. is contesting the vice presidency he lost two years ago. Duterte is backing his efforts.

Mark Navales in Cotabato and Froilan Gallardo in Cagayan de Oro contributed to this report.

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