WASHINGTON -- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has been controversial to his countrymen since his university days when he was convicted of the murder of his father's political rival.
Marcos, 68, has been president for the past 20 years and is now engaged in what some call his toughest re-election campaign. He faces Corazon Aquino, wife of another slain political rival, in Friday elections.
But 47 years ago, it was doubtful Marcos would have a life outside prison walls.
His father Mariano Marcos suffered a crushing defeat by Julio Nalundasan in a 1935 election for a National Assembly seat for a district in Northern Luzon.
Supporters of Nalundasan in their celebration placed a coffin in the rumble seat of a car, labeled it 'Marcos' and paraded in around the town of Batac, stopping to honk horns and chant 'Marcos is dead' in front of the Marcos home.
The next night, as Nalundasan brushed his teeth before an open window, a single .22 long bullet killed him, ripping through his back and heart.
Marcos was 18 then and a student at the University of the Philippines in Manila, but home for the election. Four years later, Marcos, his father and two uncles were accused of conspiring to murder Nalundasan, with the younger Marcos, a national rifle champion, tagged as the gunman.
At a trial in the northern city of Laoag, the case was based on the circumstantial evidence of Calixto Aguinaldo, an acquintance of Marcos's uncle, who said he was present when the murder was planned.
A brilliant law student, Marcos was allowed to finish his studies and take his bar examination, posting a record high score just before the provincial judge, Roman Cruz, an old political adversary of his father, found him guilty of murder.
Marcos himself wrote his own appeal brief, totaling 830 printed pages and, although only 23 at the time, argued his case before the Philippine Supreme Court Oct. 12, 1940.
Two weeks later, Marcos went before the high court and heard Justice Jose P. Laurel, on behalf of the court, throw out the prosecution's case.
'The judgment of the lower court, herein appealed from, is accordingly reversed, and the defendant-appellants Ferdinand E. Marcos and Quirino Lizardo (an uncle) acquitted of the charge of murder and forthwith liberated from imprisonment and discharged rom the custody of the law.'
Marcos became a national hero as the result of the publicity. He went on to become a war hero and turned to politics after World War II.