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Imelda Marcos Convicted on Seven Corruption Charges in Philippine Court

Philippine former first lady and now congresswoman, Imelda Marcos blows out the candles on a cake designed with a shoe during her 85th birthday celebration in Batac town, Ilocos norte, north of Manila on July 2, 2014. Imelda Marcos, the Philippines' most famous political survivor, toasted her 85th birthday July …
TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty

Imelda Marcos, the 89-year-old widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and a sitting member of the Philippines House of Representatives, was named in an arrest warrant on Friday when she failed to appear in court to face seven corruption charges.

She was sentenced in absentia to six to 11 years in prison on each count. It was unclear on Friday morning whether any effort will actually be made to arrest her or ban her from running for office next year.

CNN’s affiliate in the Philippines gave a rather confusing account of the former First Lady’s delicate legal situation:

Marcos, a member of the Philippines House of Representatives, will be given 30 days to explain her absence, according to Lenina Alisuag, from office of the clerk of courts of the Sandiganbayan Court Fifth Division, which has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices.

Marcos, a member of the Philippines House of Representatives, will be given 30 days to explain her absence, according to Lenina Alisuag, from office of the clerk of courts of the Sandiganbayan Court Fifth Division, which has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices.

The charges, filed in the 1990s, stem from companies set up by the family in Switzerland prior to her husband’s ouster in 1986, CNN Philippines says. The former first lady held various positions in her husband’s government during his 21-year regime.

Alisuag told CNN that the court had ordered the arrest warrant but it had not been yet issued.

Marcos can apply for bail while appealing the decision, CNN Philippines reports.

Further complicating the political situation is that Marcos managed to win a seat in the House of Representatives four times despite these long-standing legal complaints, and is running for governor of the Ilocos Norte province, a position currently held by her daughter Imee. Imelda Marcos was the governor of metropolitan Manila during the 1970s when she committed the offenses she was sentenced for on Friday, a scheme that involved shifting about $200 million out of the Philippines and stashing the money in Swiss foundations.

According to the Associated Press, the court has disqualified her from holding public office, but she will retain her House seat while she appeals the ruling. Critics of the Marcos family quoted by the AP did not seem confident that Imelda will actually end up in jail, or even be banned from running for governor. Many expected the appeals process to run well beyond next year’s elections.

Despite the ostentatious wealth amassed by the Marcos family while their country sank deeper into poverty – Imelda’s shoe collection is an especially notorious example – they have not been successfully prosecuted for graft. Imelda Marcos was convicted on two counts of corruption in 1993, but the Philippine Supreme Court overturned both convictions. Efforts to prosecute her for tax evasion have also been unsuccessful. More than half of the roughly $10 billion allegedly siphoned out of the Philippines by the Marcos regime remains unaccounted for.

The Marcos family remains highly influential in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte counts the family among his supporters and has expressed admiration for Ferdinand Marcos. Imelda’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is seen as a likely successor to the aging Duterte.

A spokesman for the Philippine president indicated on Friday that Duterte will not intervene with the court on Imelda Marcos’ behalf. Duterte said through a spokesman that his administration “is not in the business of exerting undue interference or influence on courts, and therefore respects the decision.”

Former congressman and activist leader Teddy Casino expressed doubts about that claim to the Wall Street Journal on Friday, anticipating Duterte will use his influence with the Supreme Court to overturn the convictions.

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