What's the latest on cases vs Imelda Marcos, family?

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After dictator and former president Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in the 1986 People Power Revolution, he and his family faced multiple charges for anomalies during his 20-year regime.

His wife, then-first lady Imelda Marcos, faced a lot of these cases. What followed were decades-long efforts to hold the Marcoses accountable, especially when it came to their ill-gotten wealth.

It has been a mix of victories and losses for all camps involved, including Marcos cronies. For instance, in some cases, the government has come up short in terms of evidence and evidence-handling against the Marcoses, which led to recent acquittals in 2019.

On the other hand, the government recently won a criminal conviction against Imelda Marcos. However, she has yet to spend time in jail due to a highly unusual legal tactic: employing the remedy of post-conviction bail during the appeal of the judgment.

Below is a list of cases the Marcos family faced in various courts, and the status of each one, based on available information from the Sandiganbayan and various news sources.

The data for the Sandiganbayan cases is as of November 2018, except for recently-decided civil cases from August to December 2019. (READ: No more criminal case vs Imelda at Sandiganbayan; 1 civil case near decision)

At the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, a total of 28 criminal cases and 43 civil and forfeiture cases were filed against Imelda Marcos from 1986 to 1995. (READ: What are the Sandiganbayan's oldest pending cases)

Criminal cases

In November 2018, she was dealt her biggest punishment yet, when the Sandiganbayan decided on the last batch of criminal cases against her after nearly 3 decades.

Marcos was found guilty of 7 counts of graft, out of the 10 charges involving Swiss-based private organizations she set up while in office. The prosecution said she earned around $200 million out of these foundations in a scheme for their own "private benefit." (READ: Imee, Bongbong Marcos were beneficiaries of illegal Swiss foundations)

She was acquitted of the other 3 charges involving Philippine-based corporations. All the 10 cases were filed from 1991 to 1995.

The Sandiganbayan sentenced her to 6 years and 1 month to 11 years for each case and ordered her arrest. But she has yet to serve time in prison. She enjoys provisional liberty while her post-conviction bail is not yet decided with finality.

In 1993, the Sandiganbayan convicted Marcos of two counts of graft for anomalous contracts for a lease involving the Light Rail Transit Authority and the Philippine General Hospital Foundation.

Granting Mrs Marcos' appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict 5 years later.

Imelda was also acquitted in 5 other criminal cases at the Sandiganbayan, while the remaining 11 cases were dismissed. Imelda faced the criminal cases following the Marcoses' return from exile in Hawaii in 1991. Ferdinand Marcos died while in exile in 1989.

Civil cases 

Except for one forfeiture case, all civil cases were filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case for forfeiture for the Philippine government.

A total of 24 civil and forfeiture cases against Imelda have so far been dismissed, while at least 18 remain pending and one archived at the anti-graft court. Eleven of these pending or archived cases date back to July 1987.

The last 5 acquittals in 2019 were 1987 cases:

Among the pending cases, 11 had been reraffled in recent years, some of which were due to the inhibition of some Sandiganbayan justices.

Civil Case No. 141 – which covers multiple Marcos assets – remains pending, and has resulted in partial summary judgments on the Swiss funds, a set of Marcos jewelry, and the Arelma assets.

Forfeiture of Swiss funds, assets

The Marcoses also faced a slew of cases here and abroad.

Foremost among them is the one handled by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. Shortly after President Marcos' ouster in 1986, Switzerland's Federal Council froze all of Marcos' bank accounts in Swiss banks.

In December 1990, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled in favor of the transfer of these assets worth around $356 million to the Philippines. In 1997, the court also agreed that the funds in the Swiss accounts were of "criminal provenance."

At first, the funds were held in escrow at the Philippine National Bank (PNB) until their disposition is settled by Philippine courts and measures are in place to compensate human rights victims using these funds.

The Philippine Supreme Court in 2003 awarded to the government the Swiss funds – which at the time grew to $658 million due to interest – and set aside the Sandiganbayan's 2002 resolution that favored the Marcoses who appealed the anti-graft court's 2000 decision against them. The PCGG then remitted the funds worth P35 billion to the National Treasury in 2004.

A portion of the Swiss funds deposited by PNB in Singapore – around $23 million in all – was the subject of a court case in that country. In 2012, Singapore's High Court decided that PNB was the rightful owner of those funds.

Then, in 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, which allocated P10 billion from the Swiss funds for the claimants and set up a claims board to facilitate distribution.

Hawaii class suit

The United States District Court in Hawaii in February 1995 ruled in favor of 9,539 Martial Law victims in a class suit where damage or reparations were sought from the Marcoses for human rights violations. The court awarded $1.96 billion to the claimants. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the Hawaii court's decision in 1996.

However, back home, the Hawaii ruling had yet to be enforced. In 1998, a Makati trial court initially dismissed the ruling for the petitioners' failure to pay the correct filing fee. However, the SC in 2005 set aside this order and reinstated the case. The Makati court dismissed the case a second time in 2013, saying that the Hawaii court "had no jurisdiction over the claim."

The claimants raised their case to the Court of Appeals (CA), but they also lost there in July 2017 when the CA affirmed the Makati court's decision. The CA said the Hawaii court's ruling is "not binding" to the Philippines, and did not meet Philippine standards of a valid judgment.

Other Marcos cases

Among the government's early victories were those in 1986, when courts in the US awarded to the country or froze multiple properties and assets of ex-president Marcos in New York and New Jersey. (READ: Recovering Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth: After 30 years, what?)

In 1991, Imee Marcos was found liable by a US district court in Hawaii in a civil case for the wrongful death of Archimedes Trajano, a 21-year-old student who posed a question to her in a 1977 forum about her role then as a youth representative.

Imee was ordered to pay Trajano's family $4.16 million in damages. However, in 2006, the Philippine Supreme Court blocked the payment due to a technicality in the service of the ruling in the Philippines. (READ: How Imee Marcos got away from paying $4M in damages for Trajano death)

An SC decision in 2012 affirmed the Sandiganbayan's 2009 ruling that forfeited in favor of the government Marcos' assets from Arelma S.A., a Panama-registered entity that opened a deposit account with Merrill Lynch in New York. The assets were estimated to be worth $40 million.

In addition, the government in January 2017 wrapped up a legal battle concerning the forfeiture of the Malacañang Collection, one of the 3 sets of seized Marcos jewelry. The Sandiganbayan in January 2014 ruled that the Malacañang set belonged to the Philippine government. Three years later, the SC affirmed the anti-graft court's decision.

Two other jewelry sets had already been awarded back to the Philippines: the Hawaii Collection seized by the US Bureau of Customs as the Marcoses landed in Hawaii, and the Roumeliotes collection intercepted at the Manila airport when a Greek national attempted to smuggle it out of the country in 1986.

In June 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the PCGG's plan to auction off the Hawaii Collection, estimated to be worth around P700 million.

Meanwhile, in a class suit, the US Federal Court in New York ordered in April 2019 the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of a sequestered art work to the Martial Law human rights victims.

Acquittals

On the other hand, the Marcoses also scored some legal victories outside of their Sandiganbayan cases.

For instance, in July 1990, a US District Court jury in New York acquitted Imelda Marcos and co-defendant Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi of racketeering and fraud charges. They were accused of siphoning off over $200 million from the Philippine treasury for her personal gain, buying jewelry, artworks, and properties in Manhattan.

Back home, a Manila trial court in 2008 cleared the former first lady of 32 counts of dollar-salting, or the act of stashing foreign currency money abroad without the authority of the Central Bank. The SC affirmed this decision in June 2018. – Rappler.com

If you have more information to contribute about cases against the Marcoses, you may send it to investigative@rappler.com.

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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