7 outrageous things the Marcoses have said

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Amid the scandals and dirt, in their heyday and many years after, what’s undeniable is the couple’s shared flair for oracy and the dramatic, a talent for words so bizarre but has all in all only contributed to how the world sees them, with both admiration and hate.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Through praise and fault, in life and in death, the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his first lady Imelda would come to withstand it all, having constantly marched on to the same tune: hurl any accusation, and they plead no guilt.

It seems it was no fool’s sentiment when only a year after his ouster from power, the late strongman then claimed, “History is not through with me yet.”

Indeed, it rings true at a time when the nation is most divided: one side prays for silence and healing; the other in rage, wishing for the earth to crack open and allow to dig up Marcos’ corpse, buried on Nov. 18, 2016 at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig City.

Today, remembering is all the more bitter — though the two-year anniversary lands just a little over a week after Sandiganbayan has found Imelda guilty of seven counts of graft for creating private Swiss foundations when she served office under her husband’s rule, the same court allowed her to post a bail of a mere ₱150,000 this Friday.

Amid the scandals and dirt, in their heyday and many years after, what’s undeniable is the couple’s shared flair for oracy and the dramatic, a talent for words so bizarre but has all in all only contributed to how the world sees them, with both admiration and hate.

“We are part of the achievement of being a god,” Marcos said in a 1987 Playboy interview. “That is what we are about now. An ordinary mortal would not be able to stand it. All of our statements now have to prove that we have not gone back to being ordinary mortals.”

Here are some of the other outlandish statements from the pair, a reflection of the lives they have led.

Imelda_Marcos_CNNPH.png “I am not at all privileged. Maybe the only privileged thing is my face,” former First Lady Imelda Marcos was once quoted saying. “And corrupt? God! I would not look like this if I am corrupt. Some ugliness would settle down on my system.”

“We never spent government funds for our personal purposes. If we did, we replaced them immediately. I have committed many sins in my life. But stealing money from the government, from the people, is not one of them.”

Ferdinand Marcos said this in 1986, in reply to ABC’s “Nightline” correspondent Ted Koppel, who had at one point in the interview asked about his wife’s extravagance.

Stealing was in fact one of the sins he would be charged of fast. The Presidential Commission on Good Governance, tasked to recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth, has estimated it between US$5 to 10 billion.

Koppel also mentioned how critics slammed the first lady’s supposed 3,000 shoes, which Marcos quickly disputed saying, “Where did the money come from? It came from our private funds. Did they prove that it came from public funds? Did they prove that this was the reason why the people don’t have any money?”

It was Imelda’s duty to not just be a housewife but to represent Filipinos, he added. And Imelda, for her part, would stick to this same script.

“I am not at all privileged. Maybe the only privileged thing is my face. And corrupt? God! I would not look like this if I am corrupt. Some ugliness would settle down on my system.”

The quote, lifted from a Nov. 30, 1985 New York Times article, was by Imelda, whom the Cosmopolitan magazine in December 1975 had ranked as one of the richest women in the world, no less.

In describing the former first lady, experts have always used the superlative. In the dictionary alone, her name had become an adjective: “Imeldific,” for the ostentatiously extravagant, sometimes to the point of vulgarity.

“I have to flaunt, practically flaunt love and beauty so that the 50 million Filipinos will see what is to love and what is to positive feel and what is perfection,”  she said in a CBS News report.

Though she denied her lavish lifestyle, saying most were gifts, her power was nonetheless established during martial law that many had begun to call it a conjugal dictatorship.

Then American ambassador Stephen Bosworth, in a Biography Channel documentary, said of Imelda, “People were so eager to please her that she lost any moral compass that she might have had, with no sense of constraints.”

Imelda_Ferdinand_Marcos_CNNPH.png Though Imelda denied her lavish lifestyle, saying most were gifts, her power was nonetheless established during martial law that many had begun to call it a conjugal dictatorship.

“Oh, God, I said if there’s somebody who’s going to kill me, why do they have to be, why is it to be a bolo that is so ugly? I wish they put some kind of yellow ribbon, or some kind of a nice thing. Why such an ugly instrument?”

In a documentary by Ramona S. Diaz on the life of the former first lady, Imelda recounts the attempted assassination against her, making light of the experience with this takeaway.

The lengthy Marcosian rule was not without its threats and disapproval. Three months well into the authoritarian regime, a certain Carlito Dimahilig on Dec. 7, 1972 attempted to stab the first lady in a public event with a bolo.

Imelda said the incident happened for a reason. Her wounds were her badge of courage, Marcos had told her, she said, adding that there would be “absolutely no reason” to survive, but she did.

“Maybe the Lord saved my life because I was living generously, giving and serving and caring for my fellow men.”

“Whoever has told you about these unwholesome observation about the Philippines, where I come back to the Philippines, I’ll pay for your trip so you can see what’s actually happening.”

This was Marcos’ answer in a 1982 United States National Press Club briefing, when asked about how he would justify his family’s wealthy living condition amid widespread malnutrition and weak labor force.

Per several press briefings, it seemed Marcos could go on for several lengthy minutes explaining his government’s policies while making snide remarks toward detractors.

“Some people say the president is incapable of enforcing the law. Let them say that once more and I will set the tanks on them.”

In February 1986, three years after Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s assassination, public unrest ensued following the snap elections, and led to Marcos’ falling out with then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos.

The president’s threat of setting tanks was told in journalist James Fenton’s book, “All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim.” In the book, the author also recalled Marcos  “ranting” on television, several moments counting down to his eventual downfall.

In a show of force, Marcos said he will wipe the Enrile-Ramos group out with “all the power in my hands to eliminate the rebellion at any time we think enough is enough.” His government, of course, was later toppled down by the People Power Revolution.

“Well at least it came out to be a very positive thing, because when they went to my closet they did not find skeletons, only shoes.”

Nothing but jest from Imelda in 2001 as she unveiled the Marikina City Footwear Museum, housing the collection of brands Filipinos found in her palace closets upon fleeing Malacañang.

Yet, the quote may as well carry on its back the astonishing tale of political survival by the Marcos matriarch who has no less flaunted her way back to power.

The turn of events was a feat after her husband’s death and family’s exile in Hawaii. True to style, Imelda marched outside in 1990, clad in black with her famous bouffant, after having been acquitted of the charges in the trial in New York. Lead defense lawyer Gerry Spence, in the Biography Channel documentary, described how everyone loved her.

Returning to the Philippines, she has since faced several charges and through the years would have many of them dismissed for lack of evidence. All the while, before the turn of the millennium, Imelda has already run for president twice — and lost.

The Marcoses have since maintained a solid bailiwick in the North. Today, Imelda is the 2nd district representative of Ilocos Norte; her daughter Imee, its governor.

“This museum is making a subject of notoriety into an object of beauty,” she also said at the museum’s unveiling.

Imeldas_furs_CNNPH.png Fur coats belonging to former Imelda Marcos found in a cellar under her bedroom at Malacañang Palace during an inventory in March 3, 1986.

“I will be fighting for my people. This is beauty that I got for the Filipino people. It is not for me. Ano ang buhay ko? Ilan na lang ang buhay ko? I’ll be 84 on July 2nd. Para ito sa sambayanang Pilipino!”

When asked by Mel Tiangco in a 2013 GMA interview what she would do should the government pursue selling her jewelries, Imelda was resolute: she would fight for her people.

It would be one of the former first lady’s more recent pronouncements wherein she put premium on her personal appearance as public matter. And if Marcos thought Imelda represents Filipinos with her looks, the former first lady took her role to another level.

Additionally, in the 1985 NYT article, she reportedly called the Marcosian era as her Camelot and she and her husband were Malakas and Maganda, the Filipinos’ very own Adam and Eve.

This god complex reflects back on the 1987 Playboy interview that also quoted Imelda as saying the Marcoses were “on a divine mission … to return to the Philippines to reclaim our destiny.”

***

Today, her graft conviction has kept her quiet, the latest development of which is that she suffers “from multiple organ infirmities” and was “under strict orders to refrain from stressful conditions” — this, all the while having been able to attend Imee’s birthday party.

Faced with a political scandal anew, one may recall what she said in a 2006 Independent interview: “I am poor not only in material things but in the truth. But I believe the truth will prevail. The truth is God and if you are on the side of truth and God, who can stand against you?”

Her call for truth echoed the same sentiments she made, among others, after her husband’s ouster from power; when she faced the trial in New York; when she ran for office; and in recent years, when her son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ran at the 2016 elections. Will Imelda say the same litany now?

If there were anything to expect, though, it is that the Marcoses do not stay silent for long. And when they talk, it is set for a grand audience.

The nation, for better or for worse, listens.