MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 5th Division on Friday found former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos guilty in 7 counts of graft for using her Cabinet position to maintain Swiss bank accounts during the Marcos regime.
Mrs. Marcos served as the Minister of Human Settlements and was a member of the Interim Batasan Pambansa during her husband's presidency and dictatorship from 1965 to 1986.
Marcos' graft cases stemmed from complaints filed in 1991 when prosecutors alleged that the Marcos family channeled public funds into their personal accounts overseas.
"Mayroong 7 Swiss foundations that were created by the Marcoses," Assistant Special Prosecutor Ryan Rey Quilala told reporters.
(There are 7 Swiss foundations that were created by the Marcoses.)
"These 7 Swiss foundations, connected sa isa't isa. Doon pumapasok yung foreign currencies, and then they will close one tapos ita-transfer nila doon sa isa," he said.
(These 7 Swiss foundations are connected. Foreign currencies were deposited into those foundation. They would close one account and transfer the funds to the others.)
With her conviction, Marcos is sentenced to imprisonment of 6 years and 1 month to 11 years for each of the 7 counts, with perpetual disqualification from public office.
The court also ordered for the issuance of arrest warrants against the 89-year old lawmaker.
Neither Marcos nor her counsel was present in the courtroom when the dispositive portion of the verdict was read by the clerk of court.
The court gave Marcos and her counsel 30 days to explain their absence during the promulgation.
Marcos is on her last term as Ilocos Norte representative, but filed a certificate of candidacy for the province's gubernatorial race in 2019.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Marcos can still avail of other remedies, including asking the Supreme Court for a reversal of the conviction.
"The law says if there is no final conviction, you can still run," Panelo told ANC's Dateline Philippines.
"There are so many candidates, prior to this coming election, who ran even if they have convictions which were not yet final," he said.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte said Mrs. Marcos offered to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth.
"The Marcoses sabi nila they will open everything and probably return maybe yung nakita lang," Duterte said in a speech delivered at the Malacañang.
"Sabi nila, 'We are ready to open and bring back pati a few gold bars.' Sabi nila, 'It's just a few but sabi nila isauli nila,'" the president said.
The Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth “is estimated between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad,” according to the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
The government has recovered a total of P170 billion in the past 30 years.
- with a report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News