Incapable of shame

To add insult to the general injury that continues to be inflicted on Filipinos by the unresolved issues of martial law, Imelda Marcos was seen partying in the evening of the day she was convicted of seven counts of graft in connection with the Swiss accounts and foundations she had opened and maintained as a powerful government official during the conjugal dictatorship.

Neither she nor her family’s army of lawyers had seen fit to attend the Nov. 9 promulgation of the verdict of the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, in which she was sentenced to up to 11 years imprisonment for each of the seven counts. Not a peep of protest was heard from the court over this standard delaying tactic or act of supreme indifference. It was just one more instance of the wealthy and powerful thumbing their nose at legal processes, the very ones to which they passionately subscribe when it is in their interest to do so.


The brief television footage of the party that Imelda Marcos attended, to mark the birthday of her eldest child, showed her sitting with the pack the two women now constantly run with. The pack comprises such power figures as Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, plunder suspect and senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile, etc. On the floor with a mic, the birthday girl, herself a senatorial candidate and governor of Ilocos Norte when she is not roaming the country for Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s swearing-in events or joining the President’s entourage in trips overseas, was heard describing her mother as “unsinkable” and “forever first lady,” or words to that effect. In response, the woman wiggled her fingers in a girlish wave.

These distressing details—along with a poignant note: a crackling bonfire at the UP Diliman campus in that same evening, to celebrate Imelda Marcos’ conviction—play back in the mind as it becomes increasingly obvious that the milestone in the struggle of more than 30 years to hold the Marcoses to account can very well amount to effervescent fizz. To address the rising volume of questions on why it is taking so long for the 89-year-old to be taken into custody, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said the court had yet to issue an arrest warrant because of the Marcos camp’s motion, filed on Nov. 12, seeking “leave of the court to avail [itself] of remedies and deferment of issuance of warrant.”


How quickly Lady Justice slips off the blindfold, how slowly time flows when the majesty of the law beholds wealth and power, as though entirely unmindful of what Balzac once observed: that behind every great fortune lies a great crime.

Who will deny that in this country, the stooped and graying picketer inelegantly shouting in the street for Imelda Marcos’ immediate arrest would be swiftly thrown behind bars if, say, he had filched cans of sardines or corned beef from the grocery store, with officers of the court sanctimoniously intoning that the law may be harsh but it’s the law? Yet the venerable Rene A.V. Saguisag, a veteran of the anti-Marcos resistance, says that he is unsure the Unsinkable should be clapped in jail, that “conviction is enough humiliation.”

Quite right, if this were not a violently imperfect system. But unbridled power has been wielded here for far too long by those incapable of shame. Can Saguisag’s high standard of irony and compassion be applied to such types, in the society in which we live? In cases involving amounts of money so large as to ensure the luxurious existence of even the great-grandchildren of the Marcos heirs? And why should it?

For most Filipinos to be convinced that, as the powerful claim, the justice system is working in this country, they have to see with their own eyes the issuance of a warrant of arrest for the convict Imelda Marcos and a posse of police officers presenting such a document to her and her lawyers. It would perhaps be absurd to think of seeing the woman led away in handcuffs—the cops’ hands on the subject said to symbolize the state’s dominion over the individual—but Filipinos are well within their rights to expect her to go through the procedures of making bail, down to the fingerprinting and the taking of mug shots.

Either that, or it would truly be moral for the Cayetano couple to simultaneously seek seats in the House of Representatives.

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