By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Imelda R. Marcos was found guilty by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on seven counts of graft due to her financial interests in several foundations created in Switzerland during the Marcos administration.
The Sandiganbayan ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her, but this may not be executed immediately because Marcos can appeal the ruling.
“She can elevate it to the Supreme Court if she sees grave abuse of discretion in the Sandiganbayan’s decision. So this is not yet final and executory,” Assistant Special Prosecutor Ryan Quilala told reporters.
In a press statement, Marcos said former Government Corporate Counsel Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro has started studying the Sandiganbayndecision and has advised her that “he intends to file a Motion for Reconsideration.”
Lazaro, who acted as presidential legal counsel to the embattled solon’s husband, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, had previously acted as her counsel in the graft charges filed against her.
The veteran lawyer will temporarily take over lawyer Robert Sison, Marcos’s attorney-on-record, who cannot attend to the case because of medical confinement at the Asian Hospital.
At the promulgation on Friday, neither Marcos nor her lawyers were present.She has been given 30 days by the anti-graft court to explain her absence during the promulgation
“Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused, Imelda R. Marcos, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of R.A. No. 3019 Section 3(h)… whereby she is sentenced in each case to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six years and one month, as minimum, to 11 years, as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office,” the dispositive portion of the decision read.
Her total prison sentence is 42 years and seven months minimum and 77 years maximum.
Acquitted in 3 other raps
Marcos was, however, acquitted in three of her other graft charges involving local corporations due to insufficiency of evidence.
Her graft charges, filed back in 1991, stemmed from her “direct and indirect financial or pecuniary interest” in the management of several non-government organizations created in Switzerland from 1968 to 1984.
Marcos maintained accounts with the Swiss Bank Corporation for the said foundations “for the benefit of the accused and her late husband,” according to the charge sheets.
At the time, Marcos was Minister of Human Settlement and Environment Management, Metro Manila Governor, and a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa.
These foundations include Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation, and Avertina Foundation.
Because of her position in the government, she was “prohibited by the Constitution from having any interest during her term of office” in these businesses.
Quilala explained that the amounts involved with the foundations vary, and it is hard to give an exact number because they used different currencies, namely francs and dollars. However, they estimate the total to be around $200 million.
Free to run for governor
Quilalasaid Marcos is still free to run as Ilocos Norte Governor in 2019, as long as she posts a cash bond before the Sandiganbayan while appealing the decision.
Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said that despite her conviction, Marcos will remain a member of the House of Representatives.
“Unless the judgment has become final, nothing could be done against Mrs. Marcos,” Castro said.
Quilala said that he considers her Swiss account convictions as a “victory” despite her acquittal in three other graft charges.
“We presented former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, and according to his testimony eh hindinaman directly ma-pinpoint ‘yung participation ni First Lady, so hindi ganun kasama ang loob namin as to the local corporations, (he cannot directly pinpoint the participation of the First Lady, so we are not that dissatisfied with the results as to the local corporations),” he said.
Marcos, 89, is the wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos and the mother of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and former Senator and vice presidential hopeful Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
The latest graft conviction of former First Lady Imelda Marcos highlighted “a working and impartial justice system” in the country, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace respects the decision of the Sandiganbayan on the case of Marcos and recognizes that such ruling should remind government officials to serve people with integrity.
“While we note that there are still legal remedies available to Congresswoman Marcos, this latest development underscores that our country currently has a working and impartial justice system that favors no one,” Panelo said in a statement.
“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. As servants of the people, we must therefore carry out our duties not only with professionalism and fidelity, but most importantly with integrity,” he said.
Panelo maintained that the government respects the decision of the court, citing its non-interference policy on the affairs of the separate branch of government.
“The Executive Branch is not in the business of exerting undue interference or influence in the affairs of another separate and independent branch of the government,” he said.
“As such, we manifest our respect to the decision of the Sandiganbayan finding former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos guilty of the seven out of the ten cases filed against her,” he added. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling, Ben R. Rosario, and Reuters)