A Philippine court has found the country’s former first lady Imelda Marcos guilty of corruption charges and ordered her arrest. Marcos is likely to appeal against the conviction in order to avoid jail and losing her seat in congress.
A special Sandiganbayan court sentenced Marcos, 89, to serve six to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of violating an anti-corruption law when she illegally funnelled about £152m (€174m) to Swiss foundations in the 1970s as metropolitan Manila governor.
Neither Marcos nor anyone representing her attended Friday’s court hearing.
Lawyers are expected to appeal against the ruling, which anti-Marcos activists and human rights victims have welcomed as long overdue.
The court disqualified Marcos from holding public office, but she can remain a member of the powerful house of representatives while appealing against the decision. Her congressional term will end next year but she has registered to run to replace her daughter as governor of the northern Ilocos Norte province.
Imelda Marcos’ husband, ex-president Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted by an army-backed “people power” revolt in 1986. He died in self-exile in Hawaii in 1989 but his widow and children returned to the Philippines. Most have been elected to public office 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.
The Marcoses have been accused of plundering the government’s coffers amid crushing poverty throughout the country. They have denied any wrongdoing and have successfully fought many other corruption cases.
Imelda Marcos was acquitted today 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 of a corruption case in 1993, but the supreme court later cleared her of any wrongdoing.
President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, said last year that the family had indicated a willingness to return an unspecified amount of money and “a few gold bars” to help ease Philippine budget deficits.
He indicated the family still denies that the assets had been stolen, as alleged by their political opponents. Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial rule a year before his term in office was to expire.
He padlocked congress, ordered the arrest of political rivals and left-wing activists and ruled by decree. His family is said to have amassed an estimated $4-8bn (€3.5-7bn) dollars while he was in power.
A Hawaiian court found Marcos liable for human rights violations and awarded €1.72bn from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who had filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extra-judicial killings and disappearances.
Mr Duterte has acknowledged that Imee Marcos, the couple’s daughter and a provincial governor, had backed his presidential candidacy.