Imelda dreams of return to power

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 01 2009 10:50 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2009 06:50 AM

MANILA - Twenty years after the death of her controversial husband, former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos still dreams of a return to power but this time with her son as president.

"Yes, I am egging him... I am practically pushing him to run for a higher office," the energetic and immaculately dressed 80-year-old told AFP when asked if she wanted Ferdinand Marcos Jnr to lead the Southeast Asian nation.

Marcos Jnr, 51, only son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, has already forged a successful political career that has been partly based on his parents' enduring strengths and alliances.

He served as governor of the northern Philippines' Ilocos Norte province, his father's former stronghold, for 12 years and is currently an opposition member of the nation's lower house of parliament.

While acknowledging all mothers were proud of their sons, Mrs Marcos said she had many special reasons to boast about hers.

"He has done great miracles in Ilocos," she said in an exclusive interview on Monday from her double-storey penthouse apartment in a luxury suburb of Manila.

She said that among his many achievements while governor of Ilocos, the man nicknamed "Bongbong" had built hundreds of kilometres (miles) of roads, ensured all the poor had access to medical services and tripled average incomes.

"Bongbong, I am very proud of him. He can qualify for anything," she said.

There is speculation that Marcos Jnr will run for the Senate in next year's national elections, but he has not publicly announced any ambitions to lead the nation of 92 million people.

There is no clear front-runner among the more than a dozen candidates who have said they may enter the running to succeed President Gloria Arroyo, who is constitutionally mandated to step down next year.

However Mrs Marcos did not say when she hoped her son, educated at Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, would assume the nation's highest office.

Marcos Snr remains one of Asia's most controversial and divisive figures despite two decades having passed since his death in exile on September 21, 1989.

He ruled the Philippines from 1965 until being ousted by a "people power" revolution in 1986 that forced him and his family to flee to the United States.

His critics accuse him of plundering billions of dollars from government coffers and presiding over widespread human rights abuses.

His wife's famously extravagant clothes and lifestyle were regarded as one of the most powerful symbols of the couple's excesses, however she insisted she and her husband have nothing to apologise for.

"Marcos was no dictator," she said before launching into a defence of the martial law that her husband introduced in 1972 to stay in power.

After returning to the Philippines following her husband's death, Mrs Marcos made a failed bid for the presidency in 1992.

And unsullied by a conviction for committing any crime during her husband's reign, she believes she still has much to offer her country.

Mrs Marcos said she harboured ambitions of a top government post in her son's administration that would put her in charge of overseeing basic services for the Philippines' 42,000 villages, known as 'barangays'.

She said the reason she was pushing her son to become president was that: "I want him to appoint me as 'mother of the barangay' at one peso (two cents) a year salary".

"Marcos has already institutionalised politics in the family," she said of her husband.

"What I want to do is simultaneously go to the barangay... and bring basic services there so that people will not be deprived of care and attention. I just want to be mama of the barangays."