The Sandiganbayan has found former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos guilty of graft in connection with her alleged financial interests in Swiss-based foundations during her time as Minister of Human Settlements and interim member of Congress.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division found Marcos guilty for seven counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. She was sentenced to a minimum of six years and one month to a maximum prison sentence of 11 years "for each count" of graft.
Marcos, who did not attend the promulgation, is also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
"Judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused, Imelda R. Marcos, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of R.A. No. 3019, Section 3(h)," Division clerk of court Liezel de Leon said, reading the dispositive portion of the decision.
"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," she added.
Fifth Division chairperson Associate Justice Rafael Lagos thus ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Marcos, but the court has yet to specify the amount of bail needed for her temporary freedom.
Marcos' legal counsel, Robert Sison, was also not present during the proceedings.
On the other hand, Marcos was acquitted for three counts of graft involving the Philippine-based foundations she supposedly had financial ties.
The Sandiganbayan directed both Marcos and Sison to explain their absence within 30 days, noting that the lawmaker's office had received the notice of promulgation on October 25 while Sison received his notice on October 26.
Marcos is running for Ilocos Norte governor in the 2019 elections, and Prosecutor Ryan Quilala said she can still run until the decision of the Sandiganbayan is final and executory.
Marcos, who is in her late 80s, is the widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and mother of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Based on the case information filed in 1991, Marcos was charged with 10 counts of graft for allegedly having pecuniary interests and participation in the management of several non-government organizations in Switzerland from 1978 to 1984.
Marcos is prohibited under the law to participate in such businesses.
Marcos, then-Minister of Human Settlements, Metro Manila Governor and a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa, is prohibited under the law to participate in such businesses.
The foundations in question are Vibur Foundation, Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Aguamina Foundation, and Avertina Foundation.
The Ombudsman also accused the widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos of funneling ill-gotten wealth worth almost $30 million in a bank account at the Banque Paribas despite only declaring a lawful income of $957,487.75 from 1965 to 1985.
Marcos, however, was acquitted for three of the 10 counts of graft.
Quilala said these cases involved her alleged financial ties in the Philippines worth around $25 million, but the testimony of former Prime Minsiter Cesar Virata was insufficient to prove her guilt.
"We presented former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, and according to his testimony eh hindi naman directly ma-pinpoint yung participation ni First Lady, so hindi ho ganun kasama ang loob namin as to the local corporation," Quilala said in an interview with reporters.
Considered a victory
Nonetheless, Quilala said the prosecution considers the conviction of Marcos a victory.
Quilala said the Marcos family had opened seven foundations in Switzerland where they supposedly funneled various foreign currencies which he estimated to be worth around $200 million.
"Opo, victory pa rin po 'to... As to the Swiss foundations, iba iba yung currencies involved. Meron kasing seven Swiss foundations na crineate yung mga Marcoses tapos doon pumapasok tung mga foreign currencies. Then they’ll close [and] open [another foundation]. Then i-transfer nila sa isa, then these seven Swiss foundations, connected sa isa’t isa," he said.
Quilala said they even showed how the Marcoses used pseudonyms for the Swiss accounts, saying one account was named after a certain Jeane Ryan but the signature had the handwriting of Marcos.
The prosecutor said the Marcos' lawyers only presented a transcript of her pending cases at the Manila Regional Trial Court as their defense. He, however, said these notes were unrelated to her graft charges at the Sandiganbayan.
Asked on why he thinks the defense team was absent, Quilala said the legal team of Marcos may be saving the image of the lawmaker.
"Baka may pakiramdam sila [na guilty] kasi hindi sila present e. And the accused was given several opportunities to even deny the allegations against her, hindi sila nag-avail nun," Quilala said.
Marcos can still appeal her conviction or raise her case at the Supreme Court.
Other divisions of the Sandiganbayan had either dismissed or cleared Marcos from her criminal cases, all of which were ruled upon in the 1990s. —KBK, GMA News