Philippine court defers Marcos arrest after her graft conviction

A protester holds a poster of former first lady Imelda Marcos calling for her arrest during a rally on Tuesday, November 13. (AP)
Updated 16 November 2018

Philippine court defers Marcos arrest after her graft conviction

  • The possibility of her arrest has captured domestic attention
  • Opponents have complained about what they see as special treatment for a politically influential family that has done no jail time

MANILA: Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos was granted bail on Friday after convincing a court to defer her arrest following her conviction a week ago for massive graft.
The move leaves Marcos free to prepare what could be a lengthy legal challenge, but will further fuel criticism of special treatment for a politically influential family.
Marcos, 89, famous for hoarding shoes, gems and valuable paintings, posted bail of 150,000 pesos ($2,846) a week after a being found guilty in absentia for seven counts of corruption involving use of Swiss bank accounts, collectively worth up to 77 years in prison.
The possibility of her arrest has captured domestic attention but the anti-graft court has given no explanation as to why it did not issue a warrant for her arrest in the week since the verdict.
Lawyers for the three-term sitting congresswoman have argued that Marcos was unable to attend because she was suffering from “multiple organ infirmities.”
On Friday she told the court that she was unaware the November 9 verdict was even being delivered and first learned of her jail sentence on television news that afternoon.
She confirmed that she then attended a birthday party that evening, images of which appeared on social media and on news websites.
Her late husband Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, mostly under martial law during which thousands of opponents were persecuted, and billions of dollars were allegedly looted and funneled into real estate, artworks, offshore banks, and disbursed among a vast network of cronies.
The family was chased out in a 1986 popular uprising but returned from exile after Ferdinand’s death and re-entered politics in the 1990s.
Marcos intends to appeal the decision and if denied, she can challenge it at the Supreme Court.
Opponents have complained about what they see as special treatment for a politically influential family that has done no jail time, despite scores of graft cases and the recovery of tens of millions of dollars of assets ruled to be ill-gotten.
President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys good ties with the family and has often praised the late strongman and expressed a preference for his son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to be his vice president.
Duterte’s spokesman last week said the guilty verdict was proof that the executive does not interfere with the judicial branch.


Growth in Australia coronavirus cases slows, but experts urge caution

Updated 1 min 35 sec ago

Growth in Australia coronavirus cases slows, but experts urge caution

  • State authorities enacted sweeping powers to impose hefty fines and potential jail terms on anybody breaching social distancing rules
  • Countries around the world are chasing the goal of ‘flattening the curve’
SYDNEY: Australia on Tuesday reported a sustained fall in the country’s rate of new coronavirus infections but officials and experts warned against complacency, stressing the need for further strict social distancing policies.
To ensure compliance, state authorities enacted sweeping powers to impose hefty fines and potential jail terms on anybody breaching rules that include a ban on public meetings of more than just two people.
Health Minister Greg Hunt reported there were about 4,400 coronavirus cases nationally, with the rate of growth in new infections slowing to an average of 9 percent over the past three days from 25-30 percent a week ago.
Of those, 50 people were in intensive care and 20 were on ventilators, Hunt said. The death toll in a country of almost 25 million stood at 19.
Based on the completion of more than 230,000 tests, the death rate for Australian cases was below 1 percent, significantly under the 10 percent being reported by some other countries and suggesting “early promising signs of the curve flattening,” Hunt said.
“That’s an achievement to which all Australians have contributed,” he said in a televised news conference.
Countries around the world are chasing the goal of “flattening the curve,” referring to a slowdown in the anticipated first wave of infections to stop hospitals being overrun with critical patients.
Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, said while Australia stopped short of the full lockdown imposed by other countries, it introduced social distancing measures relatively early.
“We acted much earlier than the likes of Italy and the United States,” Collignon told Reuters. “We had much less community transmission and we still shut our borders and implemented social distancing policies such as shutting down bars and pubs, and did much more testing.”
Collignon also noted there may be an element of luck in the current trend, and backed official moves to keep social interactions to a minimum.
Several states introduced penalties on Tuesday for people flouting social distancing requirements. The repercussions differ from state to state, but include fines of up to A$11,000 ($6,779), the potential of a six-month prison term and the requirement to wear an electronic tracking device.
Philip Russo, president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control, said talk of curve flattening was “premature.”
“We need to have weeks on end of decreasing numbers of new cases on a daily basis,” Russo said. “What we are seeing now is quite possibly normal daily variation.”
The government’s own caution was highlighted by a deal to boost the public health system with an extra 34,000 hospital beds sourced from private hospitals, along with thousands of doctors and nurses. Australia will also take delivery of more than 5,000 ventilators at the end of April, Hunt said.
Health officials said earlier on Tuesday they wanted to increase testing, especially in places of COVID-19 clusters such as Sydney’s Bondi area, which drew attention earlier this month after people ignored social distancing rules and flocked to the beach. NSW officials said that the virus may have been transmitted in the Bondi community via an infected backpacker who was not aware they were carrying the disease.
Like all affected countries, Australia’s financial and jobs markets have been roiled by the outbreak, prompting the government to unveil several stimulus packages.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that 113,000 businesses had registered interest in a new A$130 billion ($80 billion) six-month wage subsidy designed to stop spiraling unemployment and business closures.
The “job keeper” allowance brought the country’s coronavirus-related stimulus so far to A$320 billion, or about 15 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product, as economists forecast the country’s first recession in almost three decades.