On a streak
After former President Ferdinand E. Marcos was deposed in the 1986 People Power revolution, several civil and criminal cases were filed against him and his wife, Imelda, before various courts in the Philippines and the United States of America.
The cases stemmed from the allegation that the couple corrupted the coffers of the Philippine treasury and perpetuated massive graft and corruption against the Filipinos. Hence, the need to make them accountable for their sins and failures. As if the filing of the cases were not enough, they, too, were branded as the biggest thieves in the world.
Marcos was spared the trauma of defending against the charges filed against him due to his death a few years after he was exiled in Hawaii. But not for Imelda, who had to face all the indictments. She, with more than 3,000 pairs of shoes, was prosecuted as an accused in one case after another. But she was unfazed. The cases filed against her before the federal courts in the United States were dismissed.
According to her lawyer, Gerry Spence, the innocence of his client was apparent from the moment the indictments were made that he did not even bother to call a single witness to testify on behalf of Imelda.
The victory granted Imelda the right to come back to the Philippines with a clean slate and allowed her to continue with her political career, winning one elective position every time she cast her lot. Yet, her ordeal did not end there.
The Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) continued to prosecute her. For more than 30 years, the PCGG held its ground, insisting that Marcos is guilty of graft and corruption. And the people believed it. However, the same people who believed are now changing their minds. Why? Because the PCGG is miserably losing the cases it filed against her.
A couple of years back, the Sandiganbayan acquitted her on the ground that the evidences presented by the State against her did not meet the requisite quantum of proof to find her guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecutors in those cases presented unauthenticated Xerox copies which, under the rules of evidence, are inadmissible in evidence.
Most recently, on June 2021, another decision was rendered by the Sandiganbayan finding Marcos innocent. Out of the more than 40 cases filed against her, more are being dismissed due to the inability of the people to prove her guilt. And, for the one case where she was convicted, she was allowed to be out on bail due to her age and health condition. In all, Imelda, who, with her husband, was branded as a thief and as a human rights violator, has never seen a minute in jail. What does this connote?
Well, for those who love and adore Marcos, it only means one thing. She is innocent and there is no truth to the accusation that she stole from the Filipino people. For those who hate Marcos, it means that she is using her influence and wealth to buy her way out of this rut. For those who are neutral, it means that the justice system is working and the prosecutors tasked to handle the cases are inept and incompetent.
The most logical explanation is the view held by those who are neutral. Marcos is as much entitled to the constitutional guarantee of due process and since the courts of law said that she is not guilty, then, the verdict must be respected.
The problem with the corruption cases filed against Imelda Marcos is that the people’s opinion was formulated not from the evidence presented but from the deliberate manipulation perpetuated by the media against her. It was expected that the result of the trials will conform to what popular opinion asserts. She was guilty even before she went to trial. Nonetheless, weighing her guilt or innocence based on the evidences presented, the courts leaned towards the latter. This is a hard pill to swallow for those who expect nothing less than a conviction. An acquittal is not a popular decision.
Popular or not, the people should learn to accept the norm that Marcos is on a roll. If the pattern is to be observed, expect more acquittals to come her way, not because she is innocent or because she is buying her innocence but because the legal system gives her the presumption of innocence. Guilt or innocence of an accused, Marcos included, is not determined by opinions. It is established by evidences.