Always Ask For A Second Opinion If You Do Not Like The First – Imelda Did

by Emmanuel S. Tipon, Esq.

On October 21, 1988, President Ferdinand E. Marcos and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos were indicted in New York for racketeering, fraud, and obstruction of justice, allegedly for having stolen more than $200 million from the Philippine treasury and investing it in New York skyscrapers.

President Marcos was too ill to travel from Hawaii to New York. He died at the age of 72 on September 28, 1989 before jury selection began on March 20, 1990.

A bunch of lawyers who came out of nowhere advised Imelda to plead guilty. “Why should I plead guilty if I am not guilty?” objected Mrs. Marcos.

If you fight the charges and lose you will be sent to jail for 20 years for each of the two racketeering counts and five years each for fraud and obstruction of justice charges, but if you plead guilty you might get only 5 years, the lawyers told Mrs. Marcos.

Imelda had difficulty raising money for her bail of $5 million. Doris Duke, the billionaire tobacco, and Duke University heiress who had met the Marcoses during a visit to Manila when he was President, heard of Mrs. Marcos plight.

Doris offered to post the bail to guarantee that Imelda would make all required court appearances. Doris owns a beachside home in Honolulu known as Shangri-La, which is now a museum, and which Imelda often visited.

Doris asked our good friend Ron Oldenburg, a Honolulu attorney, to find a great lawyer for Imelda. Ron found Gerry Spence, a well-known criminal defense attorney from Wyoming. He said he would defend Imelda for $5 million dollars. Doris provided the money. (Doris reportedly claimed it was a loan, Imelda said it was a gift.)

Mrs. Marcos interviewed Spence. A client is the employer so the client must interview the lawyer who is the employee before hiring him. Most clients are so in awe with lawyers that they do not interview him to determine his qualifications and competence to handle their case resulting in much regret and recrimination.

Spence told Mrs. Marcos that he would take the case with one condition – that Mrs. Marcos would only talk if he allowed her. Mrs. Marcos replied that whenever she talks, all men listen, including her husband. So, Spence asked if she would agree with his condition. Mrs. Marcos said “yes.” Spence took the case. Mrs. Marcos told the volunteer lawyers to get lost.

After consulting with Spence, Imelda decided to fight the charges and pleaded “not guilty.”

U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani had filed the case. He made a big thing out of it. He held a news conference to announce that Marcos, a head of state, was the highest-ranking foreign government official ever indicted in the U.S.

It was believed that if Giuliani had won the case, it would become his stepping stone to running for higher office – like President of the United States. When he found out that Gerry Spence would be his opponent, he turned over the handling of the case to Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles LaBella.

Mrs. Marcos was acquitted on her 61st birthday – July 2, 1990. “This is the best birthday gift I ever had,” exclaimed Mrs. Marcos. She then went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, crawled on her knees on the middle aisle to the altar, and thanked God. See the story headlined “IMELDA ACQUITTED” U.S.-Philippine Times, July 1990 issue.

Most criminal defendants do not ask for a second opinion
Can you imagine if Mrs. Marcos had blindly followed her volunteer lawyers’ advice and pleaded guilty? She would have spent 5 years in a New York jail. And do you realize what the other prisoners would have done to her? Que horror!

The tragedy of most criminal defendants is that they do not ask for a second opinion. For example, a person is charged with rape and sexual assault of a minor. The lawyer, usually a public defender, tells the person, if you plead guilty, we will get you a deal, maybe 5 years in jail, but if you fight the case and lose, they will hang you by your balls after spending 20 years in jail.

The defendant does not want to spend 20 years in jail and be hanged by his balls afterward. He makes a deal. This is known as making a defendant plead guilty by terroristic threatening.

Why does he and others similarly situated not look for another lawyer and ask for a second opinion?

They blindly believe in what their first lawyer tells them even if it is unfavorable. If so, there is not much hope for such person.

They claim they do not have the money to ask for a second opinion. If so, such person is not telling the truth. How much will a lawyer charge for one hour of consultation? $300? Can you not raise this amount from your own funds, your family, and your friends? Go to Waikiki Beach and beg from the tourists. Be sure to get a permit first.

They have all sorts of excuses. As they say in Tagalog “Kung gusto maraming paraan, kung ayaw maraming dahilan” (If you like to do it, there are many ways, if you do not like to do it, there are many excuses.)

Second opinion in medical cases
A patient’s doctor tells him that he has cancer of the brain and has six months to one year to live. Most patients will likely ask for a second opinion. Why? They care about their lives. They do not blindly believe the first doctor. They can raise the money for the cost of a second opinion.

If criminal defendants care about their life, liberty, and happiness, they should ask for a second opinion if they do not like the first. Damn the cost.

As I have been telling my radio audience “Ti cuarta masapulan, ngem ti biag, wayawaya, ken ragsac no napukawen ket saan nga masapulan.” (Money can be earned, but life, liberty, and happiness after it is lost cannot be recovered.)

The information provided in this article is not legal advice. Publication of this information is not intended to create, and receipt by you does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

ATTY. EMMANUEL S. TIPON was a Fulbright and Smith-Mundt scholar to Yale Law School where he obtained a Master of Laws degree specializing in Constitutional Law. He graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, New York, and the Philippines. He practices federal law, with emphasis on immigration law and appellate federal criminal defense. He was the Dean and a Professor of Law of the College of Law, Northwestern University, Philippines. He has written law books and legal articles for the world’s most prestigious legal publisher and writes columns for newspapers. He wrote the best-seller “Winning by Knowing Your Election Laws.” Listen to The Tipon Report which he co-hosts with his son Attorney Emmanuel “Noel” Tipon.  They talk about immigration law, criminal law, court-martial defense, and current events. It is considered the most witty, interesting, and useful radio show in Hawaii. KNDI 1270 AM band every Thursday at 8:00 a.m.  Atty. Tipon was born in Laoag City, Philippines. Cell Phone (808) 225-2645.  E-Mail: Website:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.