By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE SANDIGANBAYAN’S conviction of former first lady and Ilocos Rep. Imelda R. Marcos for seven counts of graft will have no dent on the Duterte-Marcos alliance, analysts said.
At least three analysts sought for comment said the Marcos family and President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is known for his extensive drive against graft and corruption in government, will remain strong allies despite the conviction of Mrs. Marcos.
In a phone interview last Saturday, Nov. 10, political science professor Marlon M. Villarin of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) said “what is worth waiting for is whether Mr. Duterte will grant pardon to Imelda Marcos.”
“That is what the public should be waiting for. We have to remember that Mr. Duterte can be both political and legalistic. He can always say that he respects the decision but since the Constitution grants the President the pardoning power, he may consider it,” he added.
For his part, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) sociology professor Louie C. Montemar said in an emailed reply to questions last Sunday, Nov. 11: “The Duterte-Marcos unholy alliance will stand fast as the families need each other even more.”
He added that Mrs. Marcos’s “conviction isn’t final and until that time, the administration can merely feign disinterest, at best; but, that disinterest should indicate how hollow all the administration’s calls are against corruption.”
Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan, University of the Philippines (UP) political science assistant professor, said in a phone message last Saturday that “[n]othing will change if they both play the political game well.”
For his part, Mr. Villarin said about the possibility of a pardon, “It’s personal because it is up to the President whether he feels you are worthy of the pardon, and it’s political because when you grant pardon there’s political dynamics surrounding it, especially when the one who is going to receive it is a politically significant individual.”
In a statement last Friday, Nov. 9, Presidential Spokesperson & Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said the Palace “respects” the decision of the Sandiganbayan, and also stressed that “[t]he Executive Branch is not in the business of exerting undue interference or influence in the affairs of another separate and independent branch of the government.”
For Mr. Montemar, Malacañang’s statement is a “safe stance.”
Ms. Frago-Marasigan said Mrs. Marcos’s conviction is “good publicity” for the administration. “It can work positively for the electoral campaign of the President’s party and his anointed ones,” she explained, noting that the graft court’s verdict is “a good sign that there is still justice in this country.”
According to Mr. Villarin, Mr. Duterte has manifested his “capability to separate politics from justice” in his past decisions, especially when he allowed the hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery).
“People were saying it was a form of political accommodation without thinking that Mr. Duterte was in the context of legality, and that’s why he supported it and let the judiciary decide,” he said.
The conviction of Mrs. Marcos “will definitely affect” her daughter’s senatorial candidacy for the 2019 midterm elections , Mr. Villarin said.
Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos is running for senator under the Nacionalista Party, which forged an alliance last August with Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio’s regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
“It will be a very tight race for the Marcoses. Everything goes back to the square one for the Marcos camp. But they can rest assured that Mr. Duterte will definitely support them, because his relationship with the Marcoses is more of institutional and political rather than personal,” Mr. Villarin said.
The Marcos matriarch, for her part, has filed her candidacy for Ilocos Norte governor.
Mr. Montemar said the Duterte camp “can always simply point out that Mrs. Marcos’s case does not, in any way, make [the Marcoses] tainted options or less viable leaders.”
“The ball is with Gov. Imee Marcos now,” Ms. Frago-Marasigan said, adding that “[r]eacting negatively on this issue will kill her political career.”
“If she will contest the decision, she will appear delusional and unfit to become senator. If she will lash at Pres. Duterte, she will cut the alliance, then she will also sever the lifeline of her bid to become senator —that will be a political suicide. On the other hand, if she does not publicly denounce the president’s stance, it can mean acceptance of the conviction; and possibly, her redemption, and the retention of the political alliance. But I know deep inside, Gov. Imee remains her mother’s daughter and that she is silently suffering. So, trite, as it may sound, I will have to say beware of a woman’s ire,” she explained.
Sought for comment, Mr. Panelo said the possibility of a pardon is “not only speculative but premature as well.”
“The President has the constitutional authority to grant pardon to persons convicted by final judgment. It is not so in the case of Congresswoman Marcos, the decision of the anti-graft court not having attained finality. Her lawyers have stated the she will avail of legal remedies available to her to reverse the decision from the same court or higher courts.”
“In granting pardon to convicts, the President will consider the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), an office under the Department of Justice (DOJ), which looks into the records and studies the circumstances of the person in order to evaluate the latter’s eligibility and entitlement of the President’s act of grace.”
“As matter of course and policy, the President like his predecessors, weighs in all factors before exercising his right to grant clemencies.”