Imelda Marcos ordered arrested for seven counts of graft

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) — The anti-graft court on Friday ordered the arrest of Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos after it found her guilty of seven counts of graft.

The 89-year-old widow of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos – known for her penchant for designer shoes and jewelry – was sentenced to imprisonment of a minimum of six years and one month to a maximum of 11 years "in each case" where she was found guilty. Her total jail time is a minimum of 42 years and 7 months and a maximum of 77 years.

Marcos, who is running for Ilocos Norte governor in the 2019 elections, was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office. But Ombudsman Prosecutor Rey Quilala said she can still run until the Sandiganbayan's decision becomes final and executory.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed 10 graft cases from 1991 to 1995, stemming from Marcos' alleged funneling of funds to private organizations she created in Switzerland from 1968 to 1984 while holding various government posts during her husband's 20-year rule. She served as the Minister of Human Settlement, Metro Manila Governor, and a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa, the legislature during the Marcos regime.

Quilala said the Marcos family had "financial interest" in the seven Swiss foundations they created, with an estimated amount of $200 million.

"Nagkaroon po siya ng financial interests sa mga foundations na ito. As to the amount, paiba-iba po kasi but it involves 7 Swiss foundations, tapos kinu-close yung ibang foundation, ita-transfer sa ibang foundation, and then close it again, transfer sa ibang foundation. Na-trace po 'yung flow ng pera," he said in an ambush interview on Friday.

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division decision said Marcos' initiative to create these foundations was "evidently tainted with her private pecuniary interest." This makes her guilty of the violation of the Article IX, Section 9 of the 1973 Constitution.

"As overwhelmingly established by evidence, Ms. Marcos organized, coordinated, and directed the affairs of Maler, Trinidad, Rayby, Palmy, Azio-Verzo-Vibur, Avertina, and Rosalys-Aguamina Foundations from the creation up to the end of dissolution thereof, including the transfer and disposition of their respective assets and accounts," it read.

"Though named as a 'foundation,' the evidence shows that these entities were put up primarily for the entrepreneurial activity of opening bank accounts and deposits, transferring funds, earning interests, and even profit from investment, for the private benefit of the Marcos family as beneficiaries," it added.


The Sandiganbayan said the former first lady can post bail. It is not immediately known how much she would have to pay to secure her temporary freedom. 

Marcos said she will appeal her conviction.

"Justice Lolong Lazaro, who has previously appeared as counsel in this case, will act as my counsel in the interim.  He is presently studying the decision and has advised us that he intends to file a Motion for Reconsideration," Marcos said in a statement.

No representative from the Marcos camp was present during the proceedings. Marcos in her statement did not explain her absence, but disclosed that her lawyer Robert Sison is confined in the hospital.

The Sandiganbayan once convicted the former First Lady of a graft case in 1993, but the Supreme Court overturned the anti-graft court's decision in 2003, saving her from a 12-year prison sentence.

READ: Truth prevails with Imelda Marcos conviction, officials say

The court also acquitted Marcos of three counts of graft on Friday.

Hope in the judiciary

Former human rights chair and martial law survivor Etta Rosales lauded the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division for upholding their constitutional mandate, even if it took them two long decades to issue a verdict.

"I'm surprised but very pleasantly surprised, because two decades iyan. It has always been an uphill struggle , then all of a sudden, here it is after so much work. You can see that the local courts somehow are trying to establish their independence," she told CNN Philippines on Friday.

She added, "It may have taken two decades and that is a bit too long. But still, they did not give up and that is what counts."


Malacañang said the Sandiganbayan's decision underscores that there is an impartial justice system that favors no one.

"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," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Former Senator Rene Saguisag also welcomed the decision of the anti-graft court. However, he believes Marcos should not be put to jail considering her old age.

"Hallelujah! About time, indeed, long past time. But, I am not certain Imelda should be jailed. Conviction is enough humiliation," he said, suggesting house arrest or community service for Marcos.

It is still unknown if Marcos will file for an appeal using the same doctrine former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile used.

Enrile, who was under hospital arrest for graft and plunder, was granted bail in 2015 for "humanitarian reasons." The Supreme Court cited his poor health in ruling in favor of Enrile, who was 91 years old then.

CNN Philippines' justice correspondent Anjo Alimario and digital senior producers Lara Tan and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.