Friday, October 06, 2006

Imelda Marcos Acquitted by Sandiganbayan

Why the Sandiganbayan took 13 years to acquit former First Lady Imelda Marcos? What's going on anti-graft court? The Sandiganbayan had lost its credibility for its turtle-slow handling of high profile cases.





MALAYA NEWS BY PETER TABINGO

IMELDA Romualdez Marcos was acquitted of a 13-year-old graft case by the Sandigan-bayan Fifth Division yesterday.

"Thank God, thank God. I survived 20 years of relentless persecution. Justice has prevailed," Marcos said in between sobs.

Marcos has 10 more graft cases at the Fourth Division.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government had filed 68 criminal charges against her, 35 before the Sandiganbayan and the rest before the Manila court.

The courts previously dismissed 14 of the cases while prosecutors withdrew nine graft indictments.

Also exonerated was Jose Conrado Benitez.

Marcos and Benitez were accused of conflict of interest for holding positions in the Technology Resource Center Foundation Inc. (TRCFI), a private corporation, when Marcos was minister of human settlements and Benitez was her deputy.

The court held that the foundation was a "non-stock and non-profit" entity, hence there was no conflict of interest. Although TRCFI made investments in real estate by leasing lands and building and selling townhouses, the court said the money raised did not go into the pockets of foundation officials.

Defense witness Arthur Aguila had told the court that the funds went into such projects as raising hybrid tilapia and researching alternative power sources in rural communities.
"The foundation cannot be held to have been in the realty and housing businesses as charged. As disclosed by evidence, it had technology transfer projects as its principal concern or occupation, basically aimed at addressing human settlement issues," the court held.

"The essential elements of the offense charged have not been proven, the projects in question not being ‘businesses’ in contemplation of law," it added.

Marcos said her acquittal was based on the merits of her defense and not due to some favors from the administration.

"I believe in the courage and integrity of our courts," she said.

Known for her fashion sense, Marcos was in a purple terno highlighted by a silk floral scarf, with emerald brooch and earrings. She was accompanied by lawyers Robert Sison and Benjamin Santos and two personal medical attendants.

Marcos appeared tense and refused to grant interviews before the start of the hearing. She just nodded and smiled when asked by media on how she was feeling.

When the verdict was read, her supporters in the audience applauded as Marcos wept.

Marcos went straight to the nearby St. Peter’s parish church on Commonwealth avenue, Quezon City, where she offered prayers, recited the rosary and kissed the icon of St. Peter.

Marcos was found guilty of corruption in 1993 and was sentenced to 24 years in jail for her alleged role in anomalous deals involving the construction of a mass transit system in Manila but the Supreme Court reversed that decision in 1998.

On her birthday on June 2, 1991, a New York court also found her innocent on racketeering charges. – With Reuters

In 20 Years Since Marcos, Little Stability for Philippines




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