Imelda marks curious political return

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 November, 1995, 12:00am

FORMER first lady Imelda Marcos took her place in the House of Representatives yesterday, marking a mini-political comeback by the Marcos family, but it is unlikely she will amount to anything more than a historical curiosity.

Many political observers believe the country's most notorious shoe collector entered Congress merely to be in the safety of the public eye when she tries to reach an accommodation with the Government on the family fortune, believed to be as high as US$510 billion (HK$3,940 billion).

The family suffered a setback in its bid to guard the missing Marcos millions when the Swiss Supreme Court ordered the return of US$364 million in stashed bank deposits, but the Government believes the Marcos family has much more money tied up in a pyramid of shelf companies and off-shore accounts in other countries.

The political 'rehabilitation' of Imelda Marcos has been greeted with dismay by most people outside her home province, and she still must answer numerous graft and corruption charges before the Sandiganbayan, the graft court.

However, these charges have been on appeal since she returned from exile in Hawaii in 1992, and there is no indication they will be arbitrated upon any time soon.

Meanwhile the new congresswoman, reviled by many of her colleagues who suffered persecution, discrimination and even torture under the Marcos regime, remains free on bail.

She won a landslide victory in Leyte province during the May national elections, but political observers believe much of her success was due to the national credo of utang na loob: lifelong debt for personal or political favours. Impoverished Leyte was also a major beneficiary of national and regional infrastructure programmes during the 20-year Marcos era.

The controversial congresswoman, whose election was seen as a slap in the face for Philippine politics by some overseas observers, has lost some of her spark in recent years, and is becoming notorious for increasingly idiosyncratic actions and pronouncements.

Also, there is speculation of a rift between her and the family's only son, Ferdinand 'Bong Bong' Marcos Jnr, whose failure to win a Senate seat during the same poll showed the true extent of national feeling for the Marcos family.

Both Imelda Marcos and her son have claimed to be the official family spokesman for the Marcos fortune, and Marcos Jnr this year reached an accommodation with the Presidential Commission on Good Government to split the family's overseas holdings 50-50 and domestic holdings 75-25 in favour of the Government.

His mother simultaneously claimed 75 per cent of the total Marcos fortune, with the remaining 25 per cent going to the three Marcos children, Bong Bong, Irene and Imee, plus adopted daughter Aimee. Imelda Marcos is claiming half the money and property as her right as the wife of Ferdinand Marcos. She also wants 50 per cent of the remaining half of her late husband's fortune.