A Comeback and A Possible Coup

With her last-minute bid for a seat in Congress, Imelda R. Marcos is making yet another comeback. The flamboyant Mrs. Marcos has made several comebacks over the decades since she stepped down from the stage she occupied for 20 years as First Lady of the Philippines. When she and her husband Ferdinand E. Marcos, the two-term president-turned dictator, were exiled in 1986, she endured the humiliation. But after her husband’s death, she not only returned to the country, but ran for president a year later. She lost the 1992 election, garnering just 10 percent of the vote, but that did not discourage her. She ran for and won a seat in Congress as Representative of the District of Leyte, her home province, and served a three-year term. She ran for president again in 1998, but withdrew in favor of the candidacy of her friend, then Vice President Joseph Estrada. Estrada won, and so did Mrs. Marcos in one respect: During his administration, many of the lawsuits and criminal charges filed against Mrs. Marcos for graft and corruption were dismissed. And the Supreme Court overturned the one major conviction against her. The government of President Corazon C. Aquino had accused the Marcos family of stealing nearly $5 billion from the Philippine treasury, but was never successful in recovering the money.

Now, at 80 years old, Imelda Marcos is seeking her second Congressional seat, this time in Ilocos Norte, the northern province where her husband once held the office. If she wins the election in May, it may say less about her personal star power than it does about the powerful role money and patronage still play in winning elections in the Philippines. The event could also turn into something of a dynastic coup, depending on the outcome of two other races. Her daughter, Imee, is running for governor, and her son, Ferdinand Jr. lleft his own Congressional seat to run for Senate.

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