In Brief

Imelda Marcos handed minimum 42-year jail term for corruption

Former first lady of the Philippines found guilty of seven counts of graft

Former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos has been sentenced to a minimum of 42 years of prison for creating private foundations to hide her unexplained wealth during the two-decade rule of her late dictator husband.

The national anti-corruption court found Ferdinand Marcos’ widow guilty of seven counts of graft, with each count punishable by between six and 11 years in prison. The charges relate to seven transfers totalling $200m to Swiss foundations during her term as Manila governor, between 1978 and 1984.

The ruling - in a case that has taken more than two decades to prosecute - also automatically disqualifies her from holding any public office, meaning she will have to step down from her role as a congresswoman.

However, it is unlikely that 89-year-old Marcos will see any jail time, according to The New York Times. Marcos, who was not present at the trial, has said she will appeal the decision, and legal experts claim she could fight a prison sentence because of her advanced age. 

 She will remain free on bail in the meantime, adds The Guardian.

The former first lady, “famous for a huge collection of shoes, jewellery and artwork, is facing dozens of protracted graft cases that have hounded her since her family was toppled in an army-backed popular uprising in 1986”, the Philippine Star reports. She held several high-profile public offices during her husband’s presidency, and became infamous around the world for her lavish spending and vast collection of shoes.

Officials believe that she and her family stole more than $10bn from the country, most of which has yet to be recovered.

But Loretta Ann Rosales, the country’s former human rights commissioner, told the New York Times that the arrest was a symbolic step forward for the Philippines.

“I am literally jumping with joy,” said Rosales, who praised the anti-corruption judges “who have helped keep the candles lit through these dark nights and pursued the truth”.

The Marcos regime was known for its corruption and cruelty, with thousands of people jailed, exiled or killed under the military dictatorship.

Yet the Marcos dynasty still has huge political power and influence in the Philippines. Imelda’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr narrowly lost the vice-presidential election in 2016, and many see him as the natural successor to the current president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Indeed, Duterte “enjoys good ties with the Marcos family”, according to Malaysian newspaper The Star. In 2016, Duterte had the remains of Ferdinand Marcos moved to at a special heroes’ cemetery in 2016, following the former dictator’s death while in exile in Hawaii in 1989.

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