Source: The Economist

The former Philippine first lady has not exhausted her appeals


Imelda Marcos is found guilty of corruption, but not imprisoned 1

Survivors of the tyrannical and rapacious regime of Ferdinand Marcos, strongman of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, are rejoicing at the prospect of his widow, Imelda—famous for her vast shoe collection—soon having to don prison-issue plastic sandals.


On November 9th the special court that tries cases of official corruption found Mrs Marcos guilty of spiriting $200m to Switzerland while she was a congresswoman and then governor of Manila under her husband. The court sentenced her to 77 years’ imprisonment, and ordered her arrest. But the joy among those who joined the People Power revolution of 1986, which overthrew what they called the conjugal dictatorship of Marcos and the former beauty queen, is premature.

Mrs Marcos has said she will appeal against the conviction. While that appeal is pending, she cannot be arrested. Since the wheels of Philippine justice grind slowly, she will be a free woman for a good while yet, even if the verdict is eventually upheld. It was in 1991 that the court first began hearing the charges on which she has at last been convicted. A final decision may still be years away.

The former First Lady is 89. Even assuming that she lives long enough to exhaust her appeals, she would have good reason to hope for a presidential pardon. Gloria Arroyo, a former president, backed the prosecution of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, but pardoned him soon after, when he was just 70. Mr Estrada had been overthrown, just like Marcos, by a “people power” uprising that centred on complaints about corruption. He spent less than seven years in detention, mostly under house arrest, and later made a political comeback as mayor of Manila.

The current president, Rodrigo Duterte, has already shown some sympathy for the deceased dictator’s family, allowing the burial of Marcos’s remains in Manila’s “Heroes’ Cemetery” despite opposition from victims of his regime.

When Mr Duterte was elected president, Mrs Marcos’s son, Ferdinand Marcos junior, aka Bongbong, came within a whisker of winning the vice-presidency (voters cast separate ballots for the two posts in the Philippines). Mr Duterte has spoken of Bongbong as presidential material. He may not want to get on the wrong side of the family, in case he ever needs help from them. Or he may just be heeding Mrs Marcos’s frequent warning: “Hell has a special place for persecutors of widows and orphans.”