By Gillain M. Cortez, November 9 2018; Business World


Image Credit to Business World

THE Sandiganbayan on Friday found former first lady and Ilocos Rep. Imelda R. Marcos guilty on seven counts of graft during the Marcos regime.

In a statement, Ms. Marcos, who is 89 years old, said she plans to file a motion for reconsideration.

“(Retired Court of Appeals Justice Manuel “Lolong” M. 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,” she said.

In its decision released on Friday, the Sandiganbayan 5th Division said Ms. Marcos is “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for seven charges of graft over the bank transfer of $200 million in public funds to Swiss foundations that the family created.

“She is sentenced, in each of these cases, to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from six (6) years and one (1) month as minimum to eleven (11) years as maximum, with the perpetual disqualification to hold public office,” the anti-corruption court said.

Ms. Marcos was not present during the hearing on Friday.

The Sandiganbayan also ordered the issuance of an arrest warrant against Ms. Marcos. As of press time, the arrest warrant has not been issued.

Assistant Special Prosecutor Ryan Quilala said the Sandiganbayan decision isn’t final and executory yet as the former first lady can still file an appeal.

“Di pa po final. May mga remedies si congressswoman under the law (It’s not yet final. There are still remedies for the congresswoman under the law),” he said.

Under the Sandiganbayan’s rules, Ms. Marcos has 15 days from promulgation of the ruling to file an appeal. The court has 30 days to decide on the appeal. She may also elevate the case before the Supreme Court.

The graft charges were filed against Ms. Marcos in 1991. She was not charged with plunder because the Anti-Plunder law did not exist then and the offenses were committed in the 1970s and 80s while she was still Minister of Human Settlements and member of Interim Batasang Pambansa.

Under the law, graft is a bailable crime.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar D. Albayalde said the PNP will not arrest the former first lady not until they are given instructions by the court to do so.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador L. Panelo said the decision is “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.”

“This latest development underscores that our country currently has a working and impartial justice system that favors no one,” Mr. Panelo said in a message to reporters on Friday. — Gillian M. Cortez