A Philippine court has ordered the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos to return 12 million pesos ($280,000 US) that her husband pocketed from the government's food agency in 1983, an official said Monday.
The amount may be considered minuscule compared to the estimated $10 billion Marcos and his associates allegedly amassed during his 21 years in power, but the case marked a rare legal victory in efforts to reclaim at least some of the ill-gotten wealth.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government, which was formed after Marcos was ousted in 1986 with the task of running after the stolen money, has so far identified around $6.5 billion and recovered cash and assets totalling around $1.97 billion.
An antigraft court made the ruling Friday and gave Imelda Marcos 30 days to pay or, if she is unable to do so, provide a list of properties and assets to cover it, said court clerk Teresa Pabulayan.
The conviction was based on testimony by former national food administrator Jesus Tanchanco, who said that Ferdinand Marcos instructed him by phone in 1983 to transfer the money to his private account.
Tanchanco was granted immunity from prosecution in 1988 in exchange for his testimony.
Imelda Marcos, 81, did not comment immediately, although Pabulayan said she was notified of the court's decision seven months ago and filed an appeal. The appeal was later dropped and the court announced its final ruling Friday.
The flamboyant former first lady, better known for her extensive shoe and diamond collection, returned from U.S. exile to the Philippines in 1991 and entered politics.
She was elected to the House of Representatives last May, her second time in Congress, while her son was voted in as a senator and her daughter as a provincial governor.
Despite massive human rights violations and a decade and a half of economic stagnation and political repression after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Marcoses still enjoy support, especially in the late strongman's northern stronghold.
Imelda Marcos had faced some 900 civil and criminal cases in Philippine courts, but all but a handful have been dismissed for lack of evidence.
The Marcoses have denied any wrongdoing.