Philippine court orders arrest of Imelda Marcos for graft

The Philippine anti-corruption court has ordered the arrest of Imelda Marcos after finding her guilty on seven counts of graft during the two-decade rule of her husband, the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The former first lady, 89, who is also famous for her huge collection of shoes, jewellery and artwork, has faced dozens of protracted graft cases 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 totalling $200m (£154m) to Swiss foundations during her term as Manila governor.

Marcos and her representatives did not attend the legal hearing on Friday. She could not be reached for comment.

The arrest warrant might not be executed immediately because Marcos could appeal against the ruling, a prosecutor said.

“She can elevate it to the supreme court if she sees grave abuse of discretion in the Sandiganbayan [court]’s decision. So this is not yet final and executory,” the assistant special prosecutor, Ryan Quilala,said, adding that Marco could also file for an application for bail.

President Ferdinand Marcos with Imelda at a Manila ceremony in November 1985.

President Ferdinand Marcos with Imelda at a Manila ceremony in November 1985. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

Under the rules of the Sandiganbayan, Marcos 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. She may also go straight to the supreme court to seek relief.

Marcos, who is serving her third consecutive term as a member of congress, has registered to contest an election to succeed her daughter, Imee Marcos, as governor of Ilocos Norte, the stronghold of the still-powerful Marcos family. Imee is running for the Philippine senate in 2019.

The opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said: “I hope this ruling would serve as a crucial electoral guide to our voters this coming election.”

Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of opponents were jailed, killed or disappeared. He was accused of amassing more than $10bn while in office and died in exile in 1989.

The current president, Rodrigo Duterte, has good ties with the Marcos family and has often praised Ferdinand Marcos. He allowed Marcos’s 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 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”.