MANILA: Imelda Marcos, the widow of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos famous for her vast collection of shoes, won a seat in the Philippine Congress on Tuesday.
It’s a fresh taste of power for the former first lady, 80, who fled the country more than two decades ago after a popular uprising toppled the Marcoses from power.
The family headed to Hawaii in 1986 after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted and opposition leader Corazon Aquino, whose son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino looks set to be proclaimed president after Monday’s vote, was installed.
Marcos won a seat representing the province of Ilocos Norte in the 269-member House of Representatives, while eldest child Imee, 56, won as provincial governor, election commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.
Her only son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jnr, 52, appeared headed for the 24-seat Senate, placing seventh in the race for 12 vacant seats, according to partial official returns of Monday’s national elections.
The clan has won various positions since the 1990s after returning from exile but the Marcos heirs have never before managed a position as high as the nationally-elected senate.
Imelda had served in Congress from 1995-1998, representing her birthplace Leyte province in the central islands.
A local election official in Laoag City, capital of Ilocos Norte, said Imelda won 109,571 votes to 27,359 for Mariano Nalupta, a former ally, for the congressional seat.
Imelda Marcos became an object of scorn for her extravagant lifestyle when a gigantic collection of shoes was found in the presidential palace after the family fled the country. Her husband died in Hawaii in 1989.
The family has used its old political strongholds in the far north and central islands to claw its way back to political influence.
But Imelda fared poorly when she contested the presidency in 1992, when former general Fidel Ramos won.
She has made it clear she wants to achieve redemption for her late husband, who is accused of stealing billions of dollars from state coffers during his 20-year rule.
“I did this to ensure and uphold political integrity and the truth,” she told AFP in an interview in March when asked why she had decided to run for parliament.
She pointed to her experience as a key member of her husband’s government, both as housing minister and governor of the Manila capital region, as proof she was worthy of public office.
And age was no issue, she insisted.
“It is true that I am 80 years old, but I can also be a grandmother for our country.”
Emmanuel Amistad, executive director of human rights group Task Force Detainees, said the victory showed how quickly Filipinos forget their past.
“Filipinos have a short memory and they have forgotten the abuses of the father. There is an entirely new generation now and a lot of the youth do not know the experiences of martial law,” he said.
Marcos declared martial law in 1972, imposing one-man rule and jailing political opponents led by the father of the incoming president, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, who was freed in 1980 for a US heart operation.
When the opposition leader returned to Manila in 1983 to mount a fresh challenge against Marcos, he was shot dead my military escorts at what is now known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Rommel Banlaoi, director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the political revival of the Marcos family was just another symptom of the country’s personality-oriented politics.
“In the Philippines, we vote in terms of personality, not in terms of track records. The Marcoses ring a very loud bell in politics,” he told AFP.