Could the Sandiganbayan's failure to issue a warrant of arrest to former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos be a prelude to acquittal?
Human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares raised this warning on Wednesday as he said that the anti-graft court's inaction was inexcusable.
“With the reluctance of government to arrest her, I'm afraid Imelda Marcos will eventually get acquitted and unlike many of the victims of the Marcoses who suffered years in prison, I don't see her seeing prison bars with the way she is being treated now,” Colmenares, one of the torture victims during the martial law years, said.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said that the anti-graft court did not yet issue the warrant of arrest against Marcos since her camp has filed a motion asking for leave of court to avail of remedies and deferment of issuance of warrant.
In a decision issued on November 9, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division found Marcos guilty of seven counts of graft for using her position as then-Minister of Human Settlements, Metro Manila Governor and a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa to unlawfully participate in the management of several non-government organizations in Switzerland from 1978 to 1984.
Marcos was sentenced to a jail time of six years to 11 years per count of graft and slapped a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
“While many old, sickly but poor people are immediately arrested and rot in jail, Imelda gets the special treatment. That special treatment to defer issuing a warrant is unjustified. Once a bail is canceled or once a person is convicted, [his or her] arrest is a matter of course, except for the Marcoses,” Colmenares, a former party-list lawmaker, said.
“The Sandiganbayan has no right to defer issuance of warrant, considering that it took them 27 years to resolve this. Pag mahirap, sa presinto ka na magpaliwanag. Pag mga Marcoses, pulis pa ang nagpapaliwanag,” Colmenares added.
The 89-year-old Marcos matriarch did not attend the promulgation of the verdict for her graft cases, but she was later seen attending the birthday party of her daughter, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.
Based on Bureau of Corrections records, there are 3,500 elderly prisoners across the country.
For former Senator Rene Saguisag, all convicts aged 70 years old and above should be spared of jail time just like in Spain and Italy.
“There should be no jail time for septuagenarians and up, only house arrest and community service. This humanitarian policy should benefit countless imprisoned septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians,” Saguisag said in a separate e-mail to GMA News Online.
“It should also decongest our crowded jails,” Saguisag added.
Still, Saguisag called on Marcos to apologize and pay $1,000 to each of the families of those buried alive in the Manila Film Center back in November 17, 1981.
“If Imelda would seek pardon, one condition should be for her to say sorry and pay $,1000 to each of the families of the victims buried there, a structure rushed due to her whim and caprice that construction be round-the-clock nang hindi sya mapahiya kina George Hamilton,” Saguisag said, referring to the American actor who had a very close relationship with Marcos. —LDF, GMA News