Imelda Marcos fights to get wealth back

By Manny Mogato, Reuters

Posted at May 13 2010 08:05 PM | Updated as of May 14 2010 07:34 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, who won a seat in the lower house of Congress in this week's elections, said on Thursday she was confident of winning back much of the wealth seized from her family.

Marcos, known for her large collection of jewellery and 1,200 pairs of shoes, said she would not accept a compromise deal but would pursue her claims through the courts.

"I am sure that the things that are ours and truly ours will come back," the 80-year-old told Reuters by phone from the northern Ilocos Norte province. "Truth and justice sometimes grind exceedingly slow, but grind exceedingly well."

Imelda's late husband Ferdinand was president for nearly two decades, ruling with an iron fist before he was ousted in an Army-backed popular uprising in 1986. He was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office.

His successor, democracy icon Corazon "Cory" Aquino set up a search and recover agency which seized more than $5 billion worth of Marcos' alleged ill-gotten assets. The government also offered deals to the Marcoses to settle litigation over some of the remaining wealth.

"Marcos was not a thief," said Imelda, who is returning to Congress after serving one term in 1995-1998.

"I never wanted any compromise agreement. There will be no compromise because truth, honor and justice are non-negotiable," she said. "The truth will set us free because we are on the side of the truth and of God. And, if you are on the side of truth and God, nobody can touch you."

Imelda said she decided to run for public office because she does not want to enter into any compromise with government on the allegedly ill-gotten wealth and on the family's demand for a hero's burial for the deposed dictator.

"The number one role and responsibility of government is justice," she said. "Even in the case of the Marcoses, there is no justice. Even the dead Marcos is still waiting for an honourable burial. I think it's about time they do the right thing."

Imelda's eldest daughter, Imee, also won the Ilocos Norte governorship, and her only son, Ferdinand Jr, is likely to win a seat in the upper house of Congress.

Powerful clans continue to play a key role in politics in the Philippines. Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, who is set to succeed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, belongs to a political family that has ruled the northern Tarlac province for decades.

Imelda said she would pray for Aquino's success "for the sake of the Filipino people".

"You need a real expert there who has done a lot of public service," she said. "I'll also pray harder that he succeeds in his campaign of eliminating corruption because then, truth will come out and we'll be vindicated."