Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos is facing up to 11 years in prison after a court found her guilty earlier today (Nov 9) on seven counts of graft and issued a warrant for her arrest.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division court today found Mrs Marcos guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and sentenced her to between six years and one month to 11 years in prison on each of the seven charges. It is not yet clear if the sentences are to be consecutive or concurrent.
The court decision also disqualifies Mrs Marcos from again holding public office.
“This Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt…”, said the Sandiganbayan 5th Division Clerk of Court, reading the verdict aloud.
While it is not the first time Mrs Marcos has fought the law over accusations of graft, it is the first time she has been convicted.
The court acquitted her of three charges of graft, finding they had not been proven.
Marcos absent for verdict, arrest warrants issued
|CNN Philippines announces sentencing of Imelda Marcos and adds background. Video ere|
Mrs Marcos was not present for the verdict, with the court giving her and her counsel 30 days to explain their absence.
The senior judge then issued a verbal warrant for her arrest. It is understood Mrs Marcos can apply for bail and post bond in absentia, but she only has recourse of appeal to the same Sandiganbayan court.
The guilty verdict relates to several private Swiss bank accounts Mrs Marcos held between 1968 and 1986. At the time her husband, disgraced dictator Ferdinand Marcos was president and she served as Metro Manila Governor, Minister of Human Settlements, and a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa.
The court found that Mrs Marcos had created private organisations during her term in public office through which money was siphoned for her own benefit. The Philippine government has identified US$658 million in Marcos Swiss deposits. Documents used to track this money down were tabled before the court.
The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (AGCPA) prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly managing financial accounts owned by non-government organisations (NGOs).
27 year wait
The Philippine public has waited 27 years for a verdict in the case, with the Sandinganbayan or ‘People’s Advocate’ court first filing the 10 counts of graft against Mrs Marcos in 1991. Multiple delays to court proceedings followed. On January 17 last year, Mrs Marcos failed to appear in what was to be the last day of trial in the case.
Born and charged under the name Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romualde, the woman once dubbed “the steel butterfly” was known for her lavish lifestyle during the 20 years of her husband’s administration. Her extravagances are infamously symbolised by her collection of more than 3,000 pairs of designer shoes, uncovered after she and her husband fled the Philippines during a civil uprising in 1986.
At a time when most Filipinos lived in poverty, her notorious shopping sprees also included buying buildings. She once ordered a plane to turn around because she forgot to buy cheese, and renovated an entire village and ordered its occupants wear costumes for a daughter’s wedding.
In 1981, her name became associated with a tragedy during construction of the The Manila Film Center. An overly ambitious vision of the first lady, this “Cannes of Asia” was built to host the 1982 Manila International Film Festival. Construction was non-stop, with 4,000 labourers toiling three shifts every 24-hours.
Workers buried alive in quick drying cement
Work that should have been finished in six weeks was done in just three days – a rush job that resulted in tragedy. Scaffolding of the upper floor collapsed, with workers impaled on steel bars, buried in rubble, or trapped in quick-drying cement from the waist down.
According to legend, Mrs Marcos believed a rescue operation would only delay her project, and ordered cement to be poured over the victims instead. Rumours say that some 168 men were buried alive.
The Marcos family has previously faced accusations of stealing billions of dollars from the public purse.
In 2016, the Philippine government approved the auction of Mrs Marcos’ ill-gotten jewellery collection, valued at approximately $21 million.
In 1990 she was tried in New York for an alleged fraud in connection with money stolen from the Philippines National Bank (PNB) which she purportedly invested in the USA. She was later acquitted of the charges.
On her return to the Philippines she faced arrest over tax fraud and corruption, but was released on bail. Her subsequent run for the Philippine presidency was unsuccessful.
The Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) estimated the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth to be “worth between $5 billion and $10 billion, with the bulk of it reportedly deposited and hidden abroad.”
A total of $3,227,366,865 (PHP170 billion) has been recovered over the past 30 years.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said earlier today that President Duterte has repeatedly said “”we respect the rule of law. We will not interfere with the judiciary. And consistent with that, any violator of the law will be prosecuted fully until the end”.
“This President does not recognise relationships, alliances, friendships with respect to violations of the law. He always adheres to the principles that if you violate the law, whoever you are, you’ll have to answer for that”, he was quoted by ABS CBN News as saying.
Feature video ABS-CBN News
- Imelda Marcos found guilty of graft, faces arrest (ABS-CBN News)
- Imelda Marcos guilty of 7 counts of graft; court orders her arrest (Rappler)
- Imelda Marcos found guilty of 7 counts of graft (The Philippine Star)
- Who is Imelda Marcos? (CNN Philippines)
Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. Since 2010 she has worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.