Sandiganbayan defers arrest of Imelda Marcos
The first week of former first lady Imelda Marcos’ conviction for graft would likely pass without her being arrested, as the Sandiganbayan “deferred” the issuance of a warrant due to a pending plea for its consent to her pursuit of an appeal.
In a text message on Tuesday evening, Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said that the court’s Fifth Division would first hold on Nov. 16 a hearing on Imelda’s “motion for leave of court to avail [herself] of postconviction remedies.” The motion was dated Nov. 12.
If the court decides to release the arrest order, it may take place only after the hearing.
The Sandiganbayan on Nov. 9 found the 89-year-old widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos guilty in seven graft cases filed against her from 1991 to 1995 in connection with Swiss foundations she and her husband established and used to stash more than $200 million abroad while serving as a government official.
77 years in jail
The secret Marcos deposits had ballooned to $680 million by the time the dictator was toppled from power in 1986.
The court sentenced Marcos to a prison term of between six and 11 years for each of the seven counts for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The charges are bailable, but authorities have not moved to arrest Marcos in the absence of a warrant, prompting criticisms of double standard for the former first lady.
Her motion for leave is a remedy provided for by Rule 120 of the Rules of Court in cases where the court finds the absence of the accused during the promulgation of the verdict to be “without justifiable cause.”
Neither Marcos nor her former lawyer, Robert A.C. Sison, appeared during the Nov. 9 hearing, which the antigraft court said “appears to be unjustified.”
As a legal consequence, she “shall lose the remedies” following her conviction and the court “shall order [her] arrest.”
The motion for leave — filed by her new lawyer, former Government Corporate Counsel Manuel Lazaro — would try to justify Marcos’ absence so she would be allowed to file an appeal and stave off her arrest.
Some lawyers have questioned why the warrant was not immediately issued.
University of the Philippines law professor Theodore Te said that under the Rules of Court, “not showing up has specific consequences and one of those is that the court must order her arrest.”
Flouting justice system
Sen. Panfilo Lacson derided the deferment of the issuance of a warrant against Marcos, saying it told another story of privilege flouting the justice system.
“[If] it were an ordinary Juan or Juana de la Cruz without access to pricey lawyers, he or she would have been hauled to prison upon conviction and while awaiting appeal,” he said in a text message.
But Lacson acknowledged that due process must be observed in the case of Marcos or anybody else.
Bail still possible
Presiding Justice Tang said the court could still allow Marcos to post bail while appealing the verdict—depending on its ruling on her motion.
Tang’s statement was in response to misleading online reports that proclaimed Marcos’ bail had been “forfeited.” —With a report from DJ Yap
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