Supreme Court of the Philippines

Imelda Marcos appeal: Sandiganbayan shredded my rights

Lian Buan

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Imelda Marcos appeal: Sandiganbayan shredded my rights

Victims and survivors of Martial Law led by SELDA and CARMMA write to the Supreme Court on November 9, 2021 to affirm former first lady Imelda Marcos' conviction by the Sandiganbayan.


It's the Special Prosecutor, not the Solicitor General, filing briefs at the Supreme Court to defend the Sandiganbayan's decision

In appealing her conviction for seven counts of graft, Imelda Marcos, the widow of the late dictator told the Supreme Court the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan shredded her rights.

“The Sandiganbayan justices made a mockery of the rules of court and in doing so shredded the constitutional rights of the appellant,” read Marcos’ reply brief dated October 27, 2019, signed by her lawyer former government corporate counsel Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro according to court records accessed by Rappler on Thursday, November 11.

Martial law victims have been inquiring with the Supreme Court the status of this appeal, and on November 9 – the third year anniversary of the Sandiganbayan judgment – they sent a letter to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo urging the High Court to sustain Marcos’ conviction.

Records showed that in at least two notices from 2019 to 2020, Gesmundo had been inhibiting from the resolutions due to his being a commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) from 1998 to 2001. This was a case handled initially by the PCGG, then turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman.

It’s the Office of the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) sending briefs to the Supreme Court so far to defend the Sandiganbayan’s judgment, not the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) under the Marcos loyalist Jose Calida.

“There are instances that the OSG begs off,” a former Ombudsman official told Rappler.

“In this case, since the Solicitor General is seen as allied with the Marcoses, you can’t expect him to plead for the affirmance of Imelda’s conviction,” said the official.

The OSG sent a manifestation to the Supreme Court on January 8, 2020, saying the OSP would represent the government, without offering an explanation. It was noted by the Supreme Court’s Third Division on February 26, 2020.

Records showed it was the First Division, Gesmundo’s division albeit he inhibited, that required the submission of briefs in March 2019. But there were two notices in January and February 2020 by the Third Division. On January 12, 2021 the First Division issued a notice again.

When asked which division is handling the appeal, the Supreme Court’s judicial records office told Rappler on Thursday it cannot divulge information citing confidentiality, saying only that “these cases are currently pending before the Honorable Court.”

Meanwhile, the group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) said, “Imelda Marcos should serve the sentence of her conviction for seven counts of graft.”

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The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division’s judgment said Marcos and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos made an “entrepreneurial” scheme out of illegally creating and maintaining Swiss foundations, where they earned at least $200 million from interest and investments for the “private benefit” of the former first family.  

In her brief, Marcos said the decision was based only on the “perception” of late former solicitor general Frank Chavez saying those who wrote the evidentiary documents “fatally failed to testify in court.”

“The Sandiganbayan’s decision is starkly shallow, otiosely written, vacuous in its content, and trite in its form. It achieved nothing and attempted at nothing. Its inadequacy speaks for itself,” said Imelda’s brief.

The OSP replied in a brief signed by Special Prosecutor former Sandiganbayan justice Edilberto Sandoval: “These documents showed the conspiracy where the spouses Marcos jointly entered into a contract with Swiss credit banks in Zurich in March 1968 for the opening of accounts using the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan to conceal their identities.”

Marcos invoked the oft-used inordinate delay principle, which has saved many politicians from graft cases, saying “it took the Sandiganbayan 27 years to resolve the case.”

The OSP said “these cases were highly complex and extremely difficult to prosecute and resolve as they involve numerous foreign and local foundations used by the Marcoses under a scheme of layering and utilizing dummies to hide their ill-gotten wealth involving US$36 million.”

The OSP said Marcos cannot argue factual errors in the decision as the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, adding that Marcos had “the opportunity to oppose” their evidence but did not do so.

The Sandiganbayan’s decision said all three Marcos children – presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos, Senator Imee Marcos, and Irene – were specifically named as beneficiaries of the illegal Trinidad and Xandy Foundations. None of them had directly addressed these issues to date.

The Sandiganbayan initially issued a warrant of arrest against Marcos upon conviction in November 18 for snubbing the verdict – a ground to revoke post-conviction bail – but later restored bail on humanitarian considerations. She was made to post bail twice the original amount, or P300,000.

“In contrast, poor Filipinos accused of minor crimes are immediately put in jail,” said CARMMA.

“Imelda Marcos has remained scot-free and adamant in keeping the ill-gotten wealth that she and the dictator, along with their children Ferdinand, Jr., Imee and Irene, had amassed,” CARMMA added.

In his last one-on-one television appearance, Bongbong told CNN Philippines to just let the court decide.

Imelda Marcos appeal: Sandiganbayan shredded my rights


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.