Museum tour shows former first lady’s life and influence on Philippine politics.
A Philippine court has found former first lady Imelda Marcos guilty in multiple corruption cases. It ordered her arrest on Friday in a rare conviction that she is likely to appeal to avoid jail and losing her seat in Congress.
The special anti-corruption Sandiganbayan court sentenced Marcos, 89, to six to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of violation of an anti-corruption law when she illegally funnelled about $200m to Swiss foundations in the 1970s as Metropolitan Manila governor.
Neither Marcos nor anyone representing her attended Friday’s court hearing.
During the US-backed dictatorship of Imelda’s husband, Ferdinand Marcos, the family is said to have amassed an estimated $5bn to $10bn in hidden wealth.
No one has issued any reaction on behalf of Marcos, although her lawyers were expected to appeal the ruling, which activists and human rights victims welcomed as long overdue.
The court disqualified Marcos from holding public office, but she can remain a member of the House of Representatives while appealing the decision.
Her congressional term will end next year but she has registered to run to replace her daughter as governor of northern Ilocos Norte province.
“I was jumping up and down in joy in disbelief,” said Loretta Ann Rosales, former chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, who was among many activists locked up after Imelda’s husband, former president Ferdinand Marcos, declared martial law in the Philippines in 1972.
Rosales said the decision was a huge setback to efforts by the Marcos family to revise history by denying many of the atrocities under the dictatorship and urged Filipinos to fight all threats against democracy and civil liberties.
Imelda Marcos’ husband was overthrown by an army-backed “people power” revolt in 1986. He died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 but his widow and children returned to the Philippines. Most have been elected to public offices in an impressive political comeback.
Government prosecutor Ryan Quilala told reporters that Marcos and her husband opened and managed Swiss foundations in violation of the Philippine Constitution, using aliases in a bid to hide stolen funds. Marcos’ rule was often referred to as a “conjugal dictatorship” because of his wife’s political influence.
The Marcoses have been accused of plundering the government coffers amid crushing poverty. They have denied any wrongdoing and have successfully fought many other corruption cases.
Imelda Marcos was acquitted on Friday in three other cases, which were filed in 1991 and took nearly three decades of trial by several judges and prosecutors. She was once convicted in a corruption case in 1993, but the Supreme Court later cleared her of any wrongdoing.
President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, had said last year that the latter were willing to return a still-unspecified amount of money and “a few gold bars” to help ease budget deficits.
Duterte indicated the family still denied that the assets had been stolen as alleged by political opponents, and has often praised the former dictator.
Ferdinand Marcos had placed the Philippines under martial rule a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked Congress, ordered the arrest of political rivals and left-wing activists and ruled by decree.
A Hawaii court found Marcos liable for human rights violations and awarded $2bn from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Duterte has acknowledged that Imee Marcos, the couple’s daughter and a provincial governor, backed his presidential candidacy, and she is running for senator under Duterte’s political alliance. He has also allowed the late dictator’s body to be buried in the country’s heroes’ cemetery in 2016.