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(Photo from GMA News)


MANILA – To the chagrin of the opposition and critics, former First Lady and now congresswoman of Ilocos Norte Imelda Romualdez Marcos has escaped arrest and jail after the Sandiganbayan which had convicted her in seven graft cases and sentenced to several years in prison allowed her to post bail of P150,000.


The Sandiganbayan had sentenced the former first lady, now 89 years old, in each of her seven graft cases to six years and a month up to 11 years in prison, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.


Mrs. Marcos was convicted for participating in the management of several Swiss foundations while she was a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa and minister of the Ministry of Human Settlements from 1968 to 1986.


 Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo herself expressed her dismay at what she described as “mockery of the justice system” and the “measly” P150,000 bail set Mrs. Marcos’ temporary liberty.


 The Sandiganbayan’s fifth division granted the bail for the wife of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos after she was ordered arrested for snubbing her November 9 promulgation, during which she was convicted in seven graft cases.


“The P150,000 bail was too measly compared with the enormity of what was stolen. Secondly, those are just loose change to her,” Robredo said in interviews.


“I was a lawyer for the poor. Somehow, I can see that for a P10,000 bail, a client would even mortgage some of their properties or borrow money from others just to come up with that amount,” she added.


The vice president said Marcos’ alibi on the day of her conviction was “the biggest insult” to Filipinos.


“In fact, the biggest insult to us was when she partied on the day of her conviction. But she reasoned that she was sick. It’s a mockery of the justice system,” Robredo added, referring to the birthday party of daughter Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos, who is running for senator in the 2019 elections, in their San Juan City mansion which was attended also by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and others.


During the hearing of her “motion for leave of court to avail of post-conviction remedies,” Mrs. Marcos, who is running for governor of Ilocos Norte, claimed that had she known about the promulgation on November 9, she would have gone to the anti-graft court.


However, in the motion that she filed last Monday, she stated that her failure to attend was “solely because she was indisposed.” Her affidavit added that she was “suffering from multiple organ infirmities and was under strict orders to refrain from stressful conditions.”


All these ran contrary to her statement on November 9 that she was absent because it was her then lawyer, Robert Sison, who was “indisposed and confined at the Asian Hospital.”


On the very night of her conviction, she was seen in photos with other government officials in the birthday celebration of her daughter in San Juan.


The opposition and critics of the Marcoses were surprised that Mrs. Marcos returned to the House of Representatives and attended the sessions after posting bail, contradicting her statements that she was weak and sick. Before returning to the House, she was even photographed on a wheel chair.


The Sandiganbayan though has yet to decide whether Mrs. Marcos would be allowed to file a post-conviction bond for her graft charges.


The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday, Nov. 13, reportedly issued an arrest warrant against the former First Lady following her conviction for seven counts of graft last week.


But another report stated that the issuance of the arrest warrant was deferred following the filing of a motion to that effect by the Marcos lawyers, reportedly citing her age and condition.


The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division ordered the bail bonds to be posted by Marcos for the graft cases be forfeited due to her and her counsel’s “unjustified” absence during the promulgation of judgment on her cases.


“...The accused is given 30 days from today to explain why no judgment on the bonds should be issued. Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said in its order dated Nov. 9, 2018.


Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang later clarified conflicting reports stating that the 5th Division has not yet released an arrest warrant against  Marcos.


Cabotaje-Tang said the 5th Division decided to defer the release of the document after the camp of Mrs. Marcos filed a motion last Monday.


In the motion for leave of court to avail post-conviction remedies, Marcos asked for the deferment of the issuance of the warrant even though 5th Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos verbally ordered the release of the warrant last Friday when the verdict was handed down.


This developed as the anti-graft court is to rule next on the P200 billion civil suit filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the Marcoses as the case was already submitted for decision at the 4th division of the Sandiganbayan.


 Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Mrs. Marcos, despite her age and health condition, should be arrested if a warrant is issued by the courts over her recent conviction for graft.


Earlier, Vice President Leni Robredo and other officials said Mrs. Marcos may still be arrested and detained as she was caught partying during her daughter Imee’s birthday with leaders like Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and others. 


Marcos may still be sent to prison even at 89 years old, according to Robredo and Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.


Robredo said the former first lady is still physically fit to go to jail despite old age as she can still go to a party.

“Ito, kita naman natin, kita natin — iyong araw nga na lumabas iyong hatol, nasa diyaryo, nag-party pa.  Nag-party pa siya,” Robredo said in her radio program with Ely Saludar on RMN’s DZXL.


“Gustong sabihin, kung kaya pang mag-party, kaya pang lumagi sa kulungan,” she added.


Sotto said the issue on hand is simply whether if a warrant of arrest has been issued and not Marcos’ age or health.


“Whether it’s Mrs. Marcos or another person, whether it’s Senator (Antonio) Trillanes or whoever it is, the issue is, may warrant ba (is there a warrant)? ‘Yun ang importante doon, may warrant o wala (That is what is important here, if there’s a warrant or none),” he told reporters.


Kung may warrant, dapat arestuhin. Kung walang warrant, hintayin natin yung warrant. It’s as simple as that (If there’sa a warrant, she should be arrested. If none, then we have to wait for the warrant),” Sotto said.


Senator Francis Escudero, for his part, said Mrs. Marcos is disqualified from getting a presidential pardon since the Sandiganbayan’s decision that found her guilty of seven counts of graft is not yet final and executory.


Escudero, whose father was a fair-haired favorite Cabinet member of Mrs. Marcos, also said that appealing the conviction would also disqualify Marcos from pardon


Pimentel made the remark after PNP chief Director General Iscar Albayalde said the PNP had to consider the convict's age and health condition if a warrant for her arrest was issued.


"Even at an advanced age, a criminal can still be sent to prison," said Pimentel, a lawyer who topped the bar examinations in 1989.


"Ang exempted lang, mga bata," he added, in apparent reference to the country's juvenile justice laws.


Court records showed Mrs. Marcos and group have submitted their memorandum, the summary of their arguments, last July 31, 2018 while the OSG submitted its memorandum on May 8, 2018.


The P250 million civil case against the Marcoses was filed by the OSG in 1987 and was amended for the third time in 1990. In the amended complaint, the OSG had said the Marcoses illegally accumulated funds and other property estimated at P200 billion.


Aside from Mrs. Marcos, the defendants in the case filed in 1987 include  the late President Marcos; their children Maria Imelda or Imee, Irene and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.; in-laws Tomas Manotoc and Gregorio Araneta III; Nemesio Co, Yeung Chun Kam, Yeung Chun Ho, Yeung Chun Fan, Imelda Cojuangco, and the Estate of Ramon Cojuangco.


The OSG asked from the defendants more than P200 billion damages “to reimburse expenses for the recovery of the defendants’ ill-gotten wealth reasonably estimated at P250 million or in such amount as may be proven during the trial.”


PCGG is also seeking P50 billion in moral damages, P1 billion exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and “treble judicial costs.”

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