By Antonio Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Asia News Network
Few of the wealthy and powerful go to jail in this country. Forty-two years of jail sentence will merely be a castle in the air for a people who have long endured the wait for a grand Marcos chastisement. Lest we forget, this is the Philippines, where justice is selectively skewed if the price and influence are right.
In fact, the signs of impunity started to be written on the wall that very minute the Marcoses and their entourage stepped on those helicopters at Malacaang Park across the Pasig to fly them to Clark Air Base, and then to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii in February 1986. It was a ginormous entourage not fleeing from the bar of justice but about to hop on to the next bacchanalian revelry. Even cronies were on board the flight to Hawaii with Imelda crooning “New York, New York” all the way.
The verdict to oust
the Marcoses from power had been handed down by the people in the streets. In a kangaroo court, the verdict precedes the trial. But this was no kangaroo court. This was collective fury expressed in the streets not just on Edsa but nationwide, never before seen in the annals of world history. Yet the exactitude of justice did not match the people’s verdict.
Almost four years later, that revolution served as a template in repression-ridden Romania. The conjugal dictatorship of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, fattened as well by public coffers, was ousted by a people power uprising in Bucharest on December 22, 1989. Convicted on December 25, the Ceausescus were executed by a firing squad. I am not saying the Marcoses should have been sentenced to death. But the absence of a swift trial that could have summarised all their crimes gave them sufficient leeway to manoeuvre themselves through a political space where dirty money, payoffs and influence were the standards of the game.
Twenty-seven years later, the Marcoses are comfortably ensconced under a regime that lionises them as idols, their thieving patriarch resting peacefully in a cemetery for national heroes. In the delay of 27 years, we found ourselves under an anachronistic president who has had no qualms telling us that thieves like Imee Marcos financed his presidential campaign.
The charges against Imelda were filed in court in 1991. The prosecutors wrapped up their case in 2015. What kind of court takes 27 years to ferret out the truth about the Marcoses? What kind of court does not take due notice of the fact that Marcos lawyers were continually absent from hearings simply to delay the case? What kind of court takes decades to read sworn statements testifying the Marcoses stashed stolen money in private foundations and Swiss bank accounts? Was there money that changed hands to ignore the elephant in the room or is that simply a rhetorical question to ask of the Philippine justice system?
It is chilling to read news reports that the court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Imelda Marcos; more chilling to read the verdict carries the penalty of disqualification from public office.
The Madame is running for governor of Ilocos Norte in a game of musical chairs that had seen her dancing from Leyte to Ilocos.
Chilling because we know these will never come. Imee Marcos will inevitably sit in the Senate beginning in July 2019. And by the machinations of a law-breaking president, who has placed fellow alumni and fraternity brothers in the Supreme Court, the son and namesake of the dictator could be our next vice president and, God forbid, the next president.
The verdict is appealable before the Supreme Court. But who can trust a high court that has no shame in stripteasing before the public just to kowtow to the megalomaniac wishes of its appointing power? After the Marcos burial in the cemetery of national heroes, after the sham Sereno ouster, do we still have a court that reigns supreme in its integrity?
No, Imelda Marcos will never be in jail. That is the fate of fortunes in this country.