NINE days ago, the Sandiganbayan ordered Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Remedios Romualdez Marcos to spend 42 years and seven months, minimum, up to 77 years in jail. How many days the former first lady does spend behind bars, if at all, is a pending question.
Last Friday, the anti-graft court asked her to post a bond of P150,000, while the justices weighed whether or not to let Marcos post bail. You can’t blame the lady for hoping she’ll stay free. Three years ago, the Supreme Court allowed her family’s loyal adviser Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail while he faced plunder charges, considering his age and surrender. He was 91 then. Now, he’s running for another term in the Senate.
Marcos is eight months shy of her 90th birthday and claims to be dealing with at least seven ailments, none of which stopped her from attending her daughter’s party on the day the Sandiganbayan handed down its decision.
As congresswoman, she has pushed for a railway from San Fernando, La Union to Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, to be constructed under a build-operate-transfer scheme. She’s always had a thing for edifices and infrastructure. Among her bills is one seeking the creation of the Philippine Millennium Development Fund, which would pool P600 million annually from the state gambling regulator and the sweepstakes office, plus bonds and “other investment fund subscription alternatives” pitched to overseas Filipino workers. Countless statements have been written that joined the Marcos widow’s name with the term “public funds.”
Ah, Imelda. So many layers of myth and caricature would have to be peeled away before we can see her more clearly. The Sandiganbayan’s decision last Nov. 9 brings back another name tied to the complex identity of the late dictator’s widow: Jane Ryan.
In 1968, Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos arranged for the use of the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan in creating the Xandy Foundation in Liechtenstein. They later renamed it as the Wintrop Foundation. It wasn’t the only foundation the Marcoses created.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division mentioned at least eight foundations and one corporation where Imelda Marcos was said to have participated even as she held positions in the interim Batasang Pambansa or in the dictator’s Cabinet, where she controlled the human settlements office.
Among these was the Aguamina Foundation, where Imelda was active from 1971 to 1991, and which she and her husband “used as a conduit in the funneling or transferring of ill-gotten wealth” that amounted to US$80,566,483 as of Aug. 30, 1991. Yet in their income tax returns, the Marcos couple declared a lawful income of only US$957,487.75 from 1965 to 1985.
Another foundation, Avertina, had US$231,366,894 as of Dec. 31, 1989 held in Credit Swiss Bank, among other foreign banks. Like the other foundations the Marcoses created while in power, these entities had no “charitable, educational, religious” or any other public service functions, the Sandiganbayan pointed out.
“The evidence shows,” the Sandiganbayan said, “that these entities were put up primarily for the entrepreneurial activity of opening bank accounts and deposits, transferring funds, earning interest and even profit from investment, for the private benefit of the Marcos family as beneficiaries.”
For that, the court found Imelda guilty of seven counts of graft. These cases cover some US$200 million in government funds that went to Swiss foundations that Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos had created while they were in power. The court acquitted her in three cases, but ordered her to serve six years and a month, up to 11 years, for each of the seven counts of graft. She was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office. This is Imelda’s second graft conviction since 1993, although, as Rappler’s Lian Buan pointed out, the Supreme Court reversed her first conviction in 1998.
Yet to this day, there are people who choose to see Imelda as part-benefactor and part-victim. What foundation does their faith rest on?