It is November 2018 and a Philippine court called the Sandiganbayan is about to rule on a historic case. The court specializes in public corruption, such as that committed by an employee of the government, or, indeed, a former head of state. The accused is Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines and widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ran the country from 1965 to 1986.

With charges first pressed in 1991, the verdict represents the culmination of nearly three decades of painstaking litigation. But as the court prepares to pass sentence, the accused is nowhere to be seen. Her absence is perhaps predictable. After all, Imelda has been accused of plundering billions from the public purse. And, of course, she denies it vehemently.

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