By Raïssa Robles
Here is the story of how Imelda Marcos, already convicted by Sandiganbayan, still escaped being jailed for 12 years.
You will see that what Solicitor General Jose C. Calida did recently for Napoles is nothing new. It isn’t the first time a Solicitor General – supposedly a lawyer for the government – threw a case in favor of the accused.
A previous SolGen did the same thing for Imelda Marcos. Before this had happened I thought a SolGen was the chief government lawyer whose duty was to defend the Republic during litigation.
I hope SolGen Calida can explain how his move which favors Janet Napoles also favors the Philippine government and the Filipino people.
Calida justified his move by citing the need to uphold the rule of law in Napoles’ case. But there seems to be nothing in his mandate nor functions that says he has to uphold the rule of law for a respondent who is a private citizen, not a government unit or institution. You can read the mandate and functions of the Office of the SolGen by clicking here.
In the case of Imelda Marcos, then President Fidel V. Ramos spoke out that he had nothing to do with what his newly-appointed SolGen did. Ramos’ SolGen had the decency to resign his post afterward.
In Napoles’ case, SolGen Calida justified his move by saying that his office had to give comments on all the cases filed before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court where the government was involved. SolGen Calida was quoted by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as saying that: “If we do not comment and we are required to comment then we are not doing our jobs.”
There is a way to test the truth of Calida’s statement. I hope another journalist with more resources and time could do this. Using the Freedom of Information Executive Order of President Rodrigo Duterte, a request could be made with the Office of the SolGen to disclose the following:
- Since SolGen Calida took office, in how many cases was his office required to comment on CA and SC cases?
- How many manifestations and comments has the Office of the SolGen actually filed since Calida took office?
- How did the Office of the SolGen decided which cases to prioritize for its manifestation and comments?
Meanwhile, here is the story of how a previous SolGen enabled Imelda Marcos to escape jail. It is an excerpt from my book Marcos martial Law: Never Again:
Imelda Romualdez Marcos was convicted on September 24, 1993 by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for approving an “anomalous transaction” that caused the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), which she chaired, to lose the equivalent of $4.8 million. The LRTA Vice Chairman Jose Dans was also convicted for signing the contract on behalf of LRTA.
This transaction involved leasing out two train station terminals at below market rates to a private foundation that Mrs. Marcos had put up and headed. The Philippine General Hospital Foundation (PGH Foundation) was supposed to raise funds for the state-owned Philippine General Hospital, but the PGH hospital director told me in the early 1990s in an interview that PGH never got a centavo from PGH Foundation.
Acting on behalf of the PGH Foundation, Mrs. Marcos had signed the lease contract with the LRTA even though she was also the LRTA Chair at that time of the signing.
Instead of going to jail, Mrs. Marcos appealed the conviction. While waiting for the results of her appeal, she ran in 1995 for a seat in the lower legislature to represent Leyte and she won.
In 1996, the Supreme Court found Mrs. Marcos “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for signing the contract. It sentenced her to 12 years in jail, and fined her the equivalent amount of the anomalous contract. The Court acquitted Dans since it found “no conspiracy” between him and Mrs. Marcos.
Despite the verdict. Mrs. Marcos still did not go to jail. Instead, she again appealed through her lawyer,
Estelito Mendoza (the Solicitor General during the Marcos dictatorship).
On January 29, 1998, the Supreme Court upheld her conviction. It even denied a second appeal from her. But still, she did not go to jail. Instead, she had filed as a candidate to run for the presidency in the May 1998 elections.
Suddenly, out of the blue, President Fidel Ramos’ newly appointed Solicitor General, Romeo do la Cruz, intervened in her case and told the Supreme Court to reverse Imelda Marcos’ conviction, citing lack of evidence.
I was closely covering this at that time for South China Morning Post and was greatly puzzled and shocked at seeing the chief government lawyer throw away a landmark case that the government had already won. In all the years that Mrs. Marcos was being tried the Office of the Solicitor General had never gotten involved in the LRT case. It was always the Office of the Ombudsman that was prosecuting the case before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
And so, I interviewed Solicitor General Romeo De la Cruz on the matter for an SCMP story. He told me then:
“Sandiganbayan erred. It should not have convicted Mrs. Marcos. It played blind to the evidence she presented. So we recommended to the Supreme Court…to acquit Mrs. Marcos.”
He also told me that he had arrived at this conclusion on “purely legal grounds” and “without asking clearance from higher officials including President Ramos”.
This was even though his office was directly under the Office of the President and it had never ever been involved in prosecuting the Marcos case before Sandiganbayan.
I asked De la Cruz how he had gotten involved and he said it was the Supreme Court which had directed the Office of the Solicitor General, and not the Ombudsman, to comment on Mrs. Marcos’ plea for acquittal.
I asked him about his background and I learned that he was a career government lawyer. Starting 1974, he had served under Marcos’ Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza — Mrs. Marcos’ lawyer in the LRT case. I also learned that when he went to the Supreme Court on Mrs. Marcos’ behalf, Ramos had newly appointed him to the post of Solicitor General.
De La Cruz tendered his resignation as Solicitor General shortly afterward, but the deed had been done.
On October 6, 1998, the Supreme Court used De la Cruz’s stunning request for acquittal as one of the grounds for acquitting Mrs. Marcos by a vote of eight in favor, five against, and one abstention.
Former Senate President Jovito Salonga noted afterward that seven of the eight justices who cleared Mrs. Marcos had owed their appointments to senior judicial positions to Ferdinand Marcos or to Estelito Mendoza, her lead counsel.
I tried verifying Salonga’s statement and found out that four of the eight justices who had acquitted Mrs. Marcos once had her lawyer Mendoza as their boss.
Reynato Puno (now a retired Chief Justice) worked under Mendoza for nine years.
Vicente Mendoza was an Assistant Solicitor General under Mendoza from 1973 to 1980.
Santiago Kapunan worked under Mendoza from 1972 to 1973.
Fidel Purisima did not work under Mendoza but owed his appointment as a judge to Marcos.
Human Rights lawyer and former Senator Rene Saguisag told me at that time, when I interviewed him, that he was disgusted by the turn of events. He said:
“Solicitor General Romeo de la Cruz’s flip-flop is a reflection of the new power situation. If, as we
understand it, he is one of the boys of former Solicitor General and Justice Minister Estelito Mendoza, the snicker or wink factor will be there. That passes for administration of justice in our benighted country.”
Estelito Mendoza’s hands are everywhere and his clout lingers.
it’s because estilito is being allowed to do what he wants. his own kabaro are so damn collegiate and too bloody lazy to think the other way. they’d prefer not to walk on the road less traveled. less hassle, more money. para bang they’ve put themselves happily in the straight jacket, the bastards.
one day, estelito will meet a higher heel than him.
Ving C. says
He is the cancer of the justice system, sorry to say.
Kamote Procopio says
With all of these happening again, will it be too late again for Filipinos to oppose another dark regime?
never too late. for as long as the sun shines there is hope. depressing lang na all this bad things are happening so soon after christmas. kinakalbaryo ng fentanyl addict ang sambayanan and people with vested interests are applauding and abetting, and letting him do it.
Kamote Procopio says
Thanks, sooner or later babagsak din ang addict na nasa Malacañang. There is hope, and Trillanes has started some revelations.
@ KP the manghuhula warned du30 to be careful of his health by the month of march before”trillanes started some revalations”. ilang tulog na lang march na.
nanay ni digong will soon say, son, tama na, come with me pls.
about trillanes, the soldier kanin according to the wigged one, aguirre. trillanes the soldier kanin is stepping up, so courageous. I wish all soldier kanin will be like trillanes and step up too.
soldier kanin is just a derogatory label the wigged one spouted. sa panahon natin ngayon, new age soldier kanin is more than the derogatory term.
it is now honor to be called soldier kanin. arise, soldier kanin, hope for the future, arise.
Talga lang mga salot kayo sa lipunan!
sabi ni ninoy, ang shah nassyahan lang, natapos.
katulad ni makoy na kanyang nadismantle, si bduts ay may hangganan din..
the higher they are, the lower they fall. what comes up must come down.
Kamote Procopio says
It seems soldier kanin is a ninoy is to digong.
Sana March na bukas 😊
Too late? Demagogues like Du30 (& Trump) have a “use by” date, beyond which there s no recourse *within* the system. Some sort 0f revolution is then called for…no guarantee on the “bloodless” part. Blood or no, however, the social & economic ramifications are formidable.
sorry po, many are just so damn depressed and crying in their misery, helpless and despondent, their future seems very bleak. there seems to be no end in sight to misery.
every day we hear families crying because of unwarranted killings of their loved ones. too many unsolved killings, and the govt is doing nothing to ease people’s worry and anxiety. surigao is being pulverized to smithereens and all digong could offer the sambayanan is the threat to imprison de lima, war on drugs that is fast becoming war on illegal gambling na. digong should send the kapolisan to help in surigao’s rebuilding, illegal gamblers can wait. they’re not priority and would still be around tomorrow, next week, and maybe, next year too.
surigao is top priority and now npa is moving in to put more fear in surigao. and where the hell is digong all this time? ah, there he is, happy and so far away from surigao, marching with pma, getting heckled and pelted with eggs and tomatoes and being run off the parade ground. uhm, ignore the heckling and pelting and being run off the parade ground bit. I made them all up. god knows digong cannot run even if his life depends on it. I’m just angry kasi.
WTF are you spewing over the internet acs? Many are so happy while your groupie are so bitter and depressed. Have you no more suppplier of shabu and illegal drugs???
it doesn’t help the discussion when you curse like that.
sir, fentanyl na po ang gamit dito.
Dandi Chomi says
PAKTAYLO NA DI PILIPINS!!!
Congrats Digong in winning!
To have done what most corrupt men failed miserably
Free the corrupt, abusers and those in bigtime thievery,
You’ve freed Arroyo, bury Marcos in heroes cemetery
Delay corrupt frat brothers charges and free
Drug lord Peter Lim and corrupt Napoles and company!
Indeed an effective leader’s mantra is kill kill kill
The police lost their way, had quota to fill,
From the Supreme Court to Senate to Congress,
Most are so scared to die and willing to lie.
Police aim for the helpless to be killed
The good in us to destroy or revile
Finally evil won, Philippine style!
Congrats Digong in winning!
To order AMLC tho not empowered to do,
To praise Marcos to high heavens
When its so nauseating to do,
Indeed to use as tool multiple victims in killing
Philippines seemed to have brave men losing,
Congrats Digong its working!
Ahh corruption reign supreme
Poverty, corruption and falsehood appear reigning
Philippines indeed is progressing!
Congrats Digong in winning!
bravo! nice piece!
I hope digong chokes on his winning!
done na kaya.
fentakyl did it for us.
Kamote Procopio says
Digong was definitely right on his TV ad about drugs (like fentanyl), masisira ang bayan mo. Look what he did…
para siyang sales representative ng fentanyl, promoting fentanyl sa buong sambayanan. the drug company that owned fentanyl must owe digong a lot, endorser siya.
Do you want Janet to be jailed for Illegal detention? how small minded of you