Manila, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers and a lawyers’ group slammed the Sandiganbayan for allowing former first lady Imelda Marcos to post bail even after she had skipped a court session where her conviction on seven counts of graft was handed down last week.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said while bail as legal remedy was allowed under the Rules of Court, such a privilege should not be “taken lightly and dismissed on account of her age and health conditions.”
On Monday, Marcos, 89, filed a motion for leave of court to avail herself of postconviction remedies, which are provided under Rule 120 if the court finds the absence of the accused during the promulgation of the verdict to be “without justifiable cause.”
The court said that while the motion was pending, it would defer ordering her immediate arrest and allow her to post bail.
“We knew it. It (the conviction) was too good and beautiful to be true,” said Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a group of human rights lawyers.
Olalia said the court’s decision granting bail showed how some “were more powerful than others” in the Philippines.
“And so it came to pass that by a mere motion of a convicted plunderer, the Philippine court ‘deferred’ and bid its time in the actual issuance of the arrest warrant against an accused who has lost all legal remedies by reason of her failure to attend the said promulgation,” the NUPL president said.
“So, after 27 long agonizing years, the Filipino people are again made to wait for the reckoning,” Olalia said in a statement on Friday.
“Meantime,” he added, “Imelda can go on partying the nights away, run for elections together with her forgetful eldest daughter, and wait for his son, the dictator’s namesake, to become President.”
The widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos was found guilty of seven counts of graft in connection with Swiss foundations that she and her husband established and used to stash more than $200 million abroad while she was serving as a government official.
Although the medical excuse given by Marcos for not appearing in court to hear the Sandiganbayan announce its judgment on the cases filed 27 years ago—“multiple organ infirmities—appeared serious, “her actions and demeanor say otherwise,” Villarin said.
He said Marcos was partying to celebrate the birthday of her daughter, Imee, just hours after the Sandiganbayan sentenced her to up to 77 years in prison on Friday last week.
Marcos had also filed for candidacy to succeed her daughter as governor of Ilocos Norte province, which Villarin described as a “stressful job.”
“It is history judging her and this is no ordinary case that we just let pass without a whimper … So why allow her to bail and engage in such a strenuous work in politics? She should be jailed and let fate decide her future,” Villarin said.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said the antigraft court’s decision showed a “double standard” of justice.
“Clearly, it’s antipoor,” he lamented. “If you are rich, you can avoid incarceration. But if you are poor, you might spend the rest of your life in jail.”
‘Multiple honesty infirmities’
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said Marcos’ alibi for not appearing in court only proved that she was afflicted with “multiple honesty infirmities.”
The P150,000 bail was “cheap” in comparison to the “billions of pesos (the Marcoses) stole from the people,” according to Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
“It’s an insult to martial law victims, their families and the Filipino people who had been waiting for justice to be served on the Marcoses,” she said.
The bail granted was a “very shameful” decision by the Sandiganbayan justices who showed they were “bowing down to the high and mighty Marcoses for the whole world to see,” said Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.