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Two decades after husband's downfall, party goes on for Imelda Marcos
AP from Manila

          HER diamond-encrusted tiaras and 1,220 pairs of shoes made Imelda Marcos synonymous with extravagance during her husband's rule over a nation rife with poverty.
Two decades later, the Philippine former first lady remains a wealthy socialite, still living and thriving in the city from which she and her husband, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, ruled this nation of 86 million. She is unapologetic about the past, saying they did nothing wrong and that it is her family that deserves an apology.
Since the couple fled a "people power" revolt 20 years ago last week, Imelda Marcos has faced 901 criminal and civil lawsuits. Yet she has managed to get elected to Congress and has made two unsuccessful runs for president.
When the 76-year-old ex-beauty queen leaves her ritzy, high-rise apartment in Manila's financial district with bodyguards and chauffeur in tow, her hair is perfectly coifed and her colour-coordinated outfits match her jewelry, handbag - and shoes, of course.
This month, as the nation prepared to celebrate its leap into democracy, Imelda Marcos attended the birthday party of a former actress, crooned with a popular singer and next day lunched with a regional governor.
"Governments have not been good to me, but God has been good to me," Marcos told The Associated Press in a recent brief interview.
"I'm very grateful that in spite of the persecution, vilification - not just by individuals but governments and superpowers - I'm still here. If you are on the side of the right, then God can't be against you."
And she sees her husband as the real hero of the four-day uprising that came to be known as "people power."
"He showed he was a man of peace," Marcos said. "He did not use power to hurt or destroy or kill anyone."
Today, eldest daughter Imee is an opposition member of the House of Representatives, while only son Ferdinand Jr. is governor of northern Ilocos Norte province, the family's power base.
But many politicians shun public association with Marcos, especially during elections, and anti-Marcos groups abound.
At the height of her power, Marcos shopped in the world's swankiest boutiques and launched lavish beautification projects in the midst of the Philippines' extreme poverty.
Her husband and his cronies had allegedly amassed ill-gotten wealth estimated at US$5 billion to $10 billion (euro4.2 billion to euro8.4 billion) by the time the couple fled to Hawaii, a charge the family denied. He died three years later.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government, an agency created to recover the Marcos billions, says the government has found cash and assets totaling US$1.63 billion (euro1.37 billion).
But about 100 lawsuits remain unresolved, her lawyer, Robert Sison, said.
In one anti-graft court, 36 of 63 criminal and civil suits remain pending, records show. The Supreme Court reversed convictions in two cases, Imelda Marcos was acquitted in four, while the others were dismissed or are inactive.
In 1995, some 10,000 Filipinos won a U.S. class-action lawsuit against the Marcos estate for torture, execution and disappearances of dissidents. The award has nearly doubled to US$4 billion (euro3.36 billion) with interest, as appeals drag on. None of the plaintiffs has received money, and no other lawsuits have yielded payout awards.
Asked if her family is ready to apologize, Marcos said: "What for? They should apologize because what they have taken from the Marcoses is bigger now than the budget of Marcos for 20 years.
"Who stole money? It's not Marcos."
Far from apologizing for her excesses, the former first lady in 2001 inaugurated a shoe museum featuring 220 pairs of her shoes, and explained in a later interview:
"The shoes are my best defense because when they went to my closet to look for skeletons, they found no skeletons, they found shoes."
As the government is studying plans to auction off some of Marcos' shoes, gowns and Jewelry, her daughter Imee says the litigation has dragged on too long and she wants a negotiated settlement with the government.
She also hopes her father can be moved from his glass crypt in his northern hometown and buried at the cemetery of national heroes. The government has refused, saying it could trigger protests.


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