MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan 5th Division on Friday, November 9, gave verbal orders in open court to issue a warrant of arrest against Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Imelda Marcos after convicting her of 7 counts of graft, but the court closed that day without releasing any warrants.
Reporters covering the Sandiganbayan were told that no arrest order or warrant of arrest was signed on Friday, which makes the coming days a saga for the former first lady: when will she be arrested and will she go to jail or not?
Once the warrant is issued, it will be forwarded to law enforcement agencies for service. Sandiganbayan defendants, especially high-profile ones, have been known to post bail ahead of the service of the warrant to avoid spectacle.
That would be ordinary course, except that Marcos has already been convicted and critics of the former first family have called for her imprisonment.
Bail as discretionary
Lead Ombudsman prosecutor Rey Quilala said on Friday that “kapag nagpakita naman po siya sa court, puwede naman pong i-lift ang warrant of arrest kasi nga may remedies pa po siya available (if she shows up in court, the warrant of arrest can be lifted because there are remedies available).”
That is under Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, which says that if the conviction is for an offense that is generally bailable such as graft, “the accused may be allowed to continue on provisional liberty during the pendency of the appeal under the same bail subject to the consent of the bondsman.”
But under the same law, the Office of the Ombudsman can also ask the court to cancel bail if they can prove valid grounds such as:
- the accused being a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration;
- the accused had previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification;
- the accused committed the offense while under probation, parole, or conditional pardon;
- the circumstances of the case indicating the probability of flight if accused is released on bail;
- when there is undue risk that he may commit another crime during the pendency of the appeal.
Rule 114 allows the Office of the Ombudsman to do this because the law says: “If the penalty imposed by the trial court is imprisonment exceeding six (6) years, the accused shall be denied bail, or his bail shall be cancelled upon a showing by the prosecution of the following or other similar circumstances.”
Marcos was sentenced to imprisonment of 6 years and 1 month to 11 years for each of the 7 counts. The Office of the Ombudsman has not yet said if it will move for the cancelation of bail.
Marcos had already expressed intent to appeal the conviction.
Marcos was found guilty of illegally creating and maintaining private organizations in Switzerland, which were used to earn at least US$200 million from interests and investments for the benefit of the Marcos family.
No show on judgment day
There is also the issue of Marcos and her lawyers snubbing the Court on judgment day on Friday. Court records showed that Marcos and her lawyers were duly notified of the promulgation schedule.
The Court gave Marcos 30 days to submit an explanation for her absence. She earlier said that her lawyer Robert Sison was confined at a hospital that day.
For her part, Marcos was photographed Friday night partying with President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Solicitor General Jose Calida, former president and plunder convict Joseph Estrada, and plunder defendant Juan Ponce Enrile for the birthday celebration of daughter Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.
Under Section 6, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, “if the judgment is for conviction and the failure of the accused to appear was without justifiable cause, he shall lose the remedies available in these rules against the judgment and the court shall order his arrest.”
One of the remedies available being referred to is bail while appealing conviction.
Ultimately, it will be decided by the Sandiganbayan’s 5th Division, which is composed of Associate Justices Rafael Lagos, Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac. Mañalac wrote the decision that convicted Marcos; she is the most junior on the division bench and a Duterte appointee. – Rappler.com