By Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ anti-corruption court on Friday ordered the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos after finding her guilty on seven counts of graft during the two-decade rule of her husband and former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.
But Marcos, 89, famous for a huge collection of shoes, jewelry and artwork, can avoid arrest and remain free if she appeals the decision and if denied, she can challenge it at the Supreme Court.
Marcos said in a statement her lawyer is “studying the decision and he has advised us that he intends to file a motion for reconsideration”.
The widow of the late dictator 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 court ordered Marcos, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft. She was charged for making seven bank transfers totaling $200 million to Swiss foundations during her term as Manila governor.
The court’s decision came nearly three decades after the case was filed.
Under the rules of the Sandiganbayan, the former first lady has 15 days from promulgation of the ruling to file an appeal, and the anti-graft court has 30 days within which to decide on it. Marcos may also go straight to Supreme Court to seek relief. She can also file an application for bail.
Marcos, a sitting three-term congresswoman, has registered as a candidate next May to succeed her daughter, Imee Marcos, 62, as governor of Ilocos Norte, the stronghold of the still powerful Marcos family.
Imee is running for the Philippine senate in 2019.
“I hope this ruling would serve as a crucial electoral guide to our voters this coming election”, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.
Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, placing the country under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of opponents were jailed, killed or disappeared.
He was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office and died in exile in 1989.
President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys good ties with the Marcos family and has often praised the late strongman.
Duterte allowed Marcos’ embalmed body to be buried at a special heroes’ cemetery in 2016, and the president is often accompanied at official events by Imee Marcos.
Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said in a statement the ruling against Imelda Marcos was proof that the executive “is not in the business of exerting undue interference or influence” on courts, and therefore respects the decision.”
(Additional Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty and Simon Cameron-Moore)