The conviction for seven counts of graft of former first lady Imelda Marcos may have been cause for celebration for the tens of thousands of Filipinos who were victimized by the martial law regime of her late husband, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But that celebratory mood proved short lived.
Days after her conviction, the court allowed her to post bail, thereby all but guaranteeing that she will never see the inside of a prison cell. Instead, her lawyers will find all possible legal remedies to assure that Mrs. Marcos will live out the remainder of her life flaunting her stolen wealth and living like a queen. A goddess even.
Granting her bail proved one thing that all Filipinos are painfully aware of; the law treats the rich and powerful differently from the rest of us mere mortals.
The anti-graft court that tries all government officials – the Sandiganbayan – had found her guilty of keeping huge deposits in Swiss banks, beginning with a heady sum of $200 million. Over the years and decades, that amount had more than tripled, easily making the Marcoses a billionaire family in peso terms.
They had other accounts in other countries, of course, a good many of which were never identified and therefore beyond the reach of the government. The now discredited Presidential Commission on Good Government had to its credit recovered millions of dollars, but so much more was left untouched.
The lifestyle of the Marcoses and the fact that they can afford to throw away small fortunes anytime anyone of them ran for public office shows that their hidden, unexplained wealth remains vast, and all their direct descendants will live like royalty for decades to come.
Decades did I say? I should say centuries.
(There is a tale told that the vast wealth of the Cojuangcos was actually sourced from funds of the revolutionary government that fought the Spaniards and the Americans. General Antonio Luna supposedly asked his paramour to keep the funds hidden. Instead of returning it to the revolutionary government after Luna was murdered, that Cojuangco became the matriarch of the family by investing heavily in landholdings all over Central Luzon. The family remains super rich to this day.)
Friends of Mrs. Marcos point to her age as well as frail health as the reasons for allowing her to post bail.
This is the worst excuse imaginable, as there are literally thousands of impoverished Filipinos in poor health and advanced age who are withering away in jails and prisons all over the country.
The law is clear. Once convicted, a felon must be incarcerated. No special treatment must be afforded anyone.
While it is true that the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa has hosted many VIPs, being kept in the national penitentiary is still a form of punishment. And this is what the public cries out for. Imelda Marcos must be punished for her crimes.
Let there be no mistaking this one undeniable fact: Mrs. Marcos is a criminal. In some cases, she is an even bigger criminal than her husband, who at least accomplished some good things for the people during his harsh 20-year rule.
The widely held belief is that Mrs. Marcos had an insatiable appetite for material wealth, unlike her husband who was known to be frugal and who preferred to live simply.
This is not to absolve Ferdinand Marcos of his crimes, to be sure. Under his watch, millions of Filipinos suffered and he and his cronies committed wholesale larceny to a mind-boggling extent previously unheard of. Under the dictator, the Philippines incurred loans which the people are still paying for to this day.
It can be argued that dying in exile was one form of punishment for the deposed president.
Imelda, on the other hand, was rewarded instead of punished when the government allowed her to return home and resume her non-stop partying ways. This was exacerbated by her and son Bongbong and daughter Imee not only running but also winning various elective posts.
So now she remains free and will continue to do until her dying day. The Philippine judicial system will see to it that Imelda the First will live like an empress for the rest of her life, and when her time comes will be given a fitting exit to be attended by millions of sycophants.
The court that granted her bail committed a huge disservice to the Filipino people. That court showed that in this forlorn and godforsaken country, crime pays. The bigger the crime, the greater the rewards.