POSTSCRIPT / November 15, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Is there a warrant for Imelda’s arrest?

DID the Sandiganbayan issue a warrant for the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos after she failed to appear for the Nov. 9 promulgation of sentence upon her conviction on seven counts of graft for amassing illegal wealth?

As we write this, the police have not received such an order from the Sandiganbayan to arrest the 89-year-old congresswoman from the second district of Ilocos Norte.

In its order after her non-appearance, the court said: “Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the accused.” Is that statement the warrant itself? Is it enough basis for the police to arrest the convict? If it is not yet the proper warrant, what or who is delaying its issuance?

Under normal circumstances involving plain folk, it should not be difficult for policemen (or even such citizens as Robin Padilla) to arrest persons roaming free after their conviction on multiple counts of graft. But this is no ordinary convict, it’s Ma’am Imelda!

That is why lawyers were invented — to explain, not really to muddle, the law and the meaning of court pronouncements. But even lawyers sometimes have different answers to the same question of law.

Casting around for clarification, we came upon a tweet of former Solicitor General Pilo Hilbay (who incidentally is a favorite in the race for the Senate) quoting Rule 120 of the Rules of Court which says:

“In case the accused fails to appear at the scheduled date of promulgation of judgment despite notice xxx If the judgment is for conviction and the failure of the accused to appear is without justifiable cause, he shall lose the remedies available in these rules against the judgment and the court shall order his arrest. Within fifteen (15) days form promulgation of judgment, however, the accused may surrender and file a motion for leave of court to avail of these remedies. He shall state the reasons for his absence at the scheduled promulgation and if he proves that the absence was for a justifiable cause, he shall be allowed to avail of said remedies within fifteen (15) days from notice.”

On the delicate task of arresting Mrs. Marcos, PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said: ”Kung medyo may edad na, mga babae, hindi na po natin naman na kailangan pinoposasan lalo na kung wala namang history of violence.”

The officer and gentleman was saying that considering Mrs. Marcos’ age (89) and being a woman, the police may dispense with handcuffs. The arresting team could try using solid-gold handcuffs encrusted with diamonds if that would lighten the burden.

Being a non-lawyer, we still cannot make it out if the court warrant being awaited by the police is for Mrs. Marcos’ non-appearance at the promulgation or a direct result of her conviction.

One consequence of her non-appearance was the forfeiture of the bail (leading to her arrest) that she had posted during the trial. In its order on Friday, the Sandiganbayan gave Mrs. Marcos 30 days, not 15, to “explain why no judgment on the bonds should be issued.”

 Here’s text of Sandiganbayan’s order

IT MIGHT help if we print verbatim the Sandiganbayan’s one-page order of Nov. 9 so readers know exactly what the anti-graft court has been saying. The body of the order:

“On second call, accused Imelda R. Marcos and her counsel, Atty. Robert Sison were still not present in court. Considering that accused and her lawyers were duly served notice of promulgation at their given address and considering that their absence appears to be unjustified, let the judgment be ordered recorded in the criminal docket of the court. The prosecution moved that copies of the judgment be furnished to accused Imelda R. Marcos and her counsel, Atty. Robert Sison and the prosecution. Granted.

“Upon motion of the prosecution, the reading of the judgment’s dispositive portion convicting the accused in Criminal Case Nos. 17287, 17288, 17289, 17290, 22867 and 22869, was made in open court.

“Judgment acquitting the accused in Criminal Case Nos. 19225, 17291 and 22870, was also read in open court.

“On motion of the prosecution and considering that the absence of the accused and her counsel appears to be unjustified, the bonds posted by the accused in the cases where she was convicted are ordered forfeited and the accused is given thirty (30) days from today to explain why no judgment on the bonds should be issued. Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the accused.

“So ordered.”

It was signed by Associate Justices Rafael G. Lagos (chairman of the Sandiganbayan’s fifth division), Maria Theresa V. Mendoza Arcega and Maryann E. Corpus Mañalac.

Mrs. Marcos was convicted Friday on seven counts of graft, each one drawing a maximum prison term of 11 years, for a total of 77 years — a Marcos “lucky number.”

She is expected to appeal her conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, during which she is likely to apply for bail or raise medical reasons to be under “hospital arrest,” a Filipino variation of house arrest.

Filed in 1991, the charges arose from her illegally amassing wealth, estimated at $200 million, grossly out of proportion to her legitimate income as a public official during the dictatorship of her husband Ferdinand Marcos. She was a Cabinet minister and Metro Manila governor.

While she did not attend the promulgation of her sentence, she was at a party that evening with her daughter Imee, who is governor of Ilocos Norte. Mrs. Marcos herself is now congresswoman representing the second district of that province.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 15, 2018)

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