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Ferdinand Marcos dies in exile

By
RON TODT

HONOLULU -- Mourners streamed to the exile home of Ferdinand E. Marcos to view his body and comfort his widow who denounced Philippine President Corazon Aquino's decision to deny him burial in his homeland as 'so cruel, so inhuman and immoral, and so wrong.'

Marcos, 72, whose 20 years in power were marked by greed and corruption, died early Thursday of cardiac arrest after being hospitalized since January with a multitude of medical problems. Doctors said lung and kidney failure as well as a widespread infection contributed to the heart failure.

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Imelda Marcos, 59, and a half-dozen supporters prayed briefly over Marcos's open coffin Friday in the flower-filled living room of her hillside home overlooking Honolulu, it was reported.

After two aides removed a plexiglass partition covering the body of the former president, Mrs. Marcos stroked her husband's shiny black hair and began crying, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin said.

Moments later, she left the room, unable to talk to a reporter.

Philippine President Corazon Aquino, thrust into power by the 'people power' revolution that ousted Marcos in 1986 and sent him, his family and many supporters into exile in Hawaii, ruled out the possibility of Marcos's burial in the island nation, saying 'the wrongs of the past have to be righted.'

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But in a conciliatory gesture, she ordered flags flown at half mast in all government buildings for three days and on the still unspecified day of Marcos's burial.

'This is so cruel, so inhuman and immoral, and so wrong,' Mrs. Marcos told reporters in her home late Thursday, speaking only a few feet from her husband's ornate, flag-draped casket. 'I've always considered only one thing: his wish -- the wish of every Fliipino -- to be buried and laid to rest in peace in his motherland.'

Aquino was steadfast in her decision despite the appeals of the family and a demonstration Friday in Manila by Marcos supporters asking that his body be returned to the island nation.

About 300 weeping mourners, wearing black shirts with stickers saying 'Bring him home,' pleaded for the return of Marcos's body at a prayer rally in suburban Manila Friday.

'Please give us another Marcos, Lord, someone who will love us and feed us. Please bring back our beloved president even if only his corpse so we will have a glimpse of him,' one woman shouted standing atop a jeep.

Imelda Marcos did not rule out the possibility of burying her husband elsewhere if Aquino would not reconsider.

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Asked asked how long she would wait before deciding to bury her husband, she said, 'As the saying goes, you just hope and pray every day it will happen, that ... some people will eventually see what is right and do what is right.

'I am sure that he will be brought (home) sooner or later because this will now go to the doorstep of every Filipino. If a president for more than 20 years is deprived of his country, how about the millions of Filipinos? This is a dangerous precedent.'

Marcos's mother died in the Philippines in May 1988 and still has not been buried because relatives hoped Marcos would be allowed to return for a funeral. Friends and loyalists came to the Marcos home to pay their respects and see Marcos in his dark brown, gold-trimmed casket, draped with a Philippine flag. and surrounded by a bed of white flowers and greenery. Behind it hung a replica of the Philippine seal flanked by a Philippine flag and a flag of the country's president. A gold crucifix was mounted on the raised lid of the casket.

Marcos, his features clearly visible through a glass pane, was dressed in a traditional Filipino barong-tagalog, an off-white long-sleeved shirt with lacy designs.

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Marcos associates said the fallen leader would lie in state in the Marcos home through Sunday night, would be at a mortuary for public viewing from next Monday to Thursday, and a wake would be held next Friday night at a church.

At the time of his death, Marcos and his wife were still facing charges of looting the Philippines of as much as $10 billion. But many Filipinos remain loyal to the couple, including soldiers who have led five unsuccessful coup attempts against his successor, Aquino.

'God has taken this great man from our midst to a better place more deserving of his presence' said his son, Ferdinand 'Bong Bong' Marcos Jr. 'Perhaps his friends and detractors alike will now be able to look beyond the man and see what he stood for -- his vision, his compassion and his total love of country.'

Ferdinand Jr. said he hoped Aquino would change her decision. 'I ask everyone everywhere to please help us in this endeavor. I will do everything that it takes to bring him home.'

Marcos, who left the Philippines in February 1986 after more than two decades of iron-fisted rule and U.S. support, and his family spent his final years trying to arrange his return to his homeland.

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Marcos had vowed to return to his homeland, 'even at the risk of my life.' He boasted he had hoards of gold and threatened to return with an invasion force.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said President Bush and his wife, Barbara, were 'saddened to hear' of Marcos's death and heralded his having left power in the Philippines peacefully.

Marcos was a World War II hero and anti-communist who ruled the Philippines from 1965 until he was ousted by a popular revolt led by Aquino in 1986. The United States, once his strongest ally, refused to intervene but allowed Marcos, his family and closest associates to flee to Hawaii.

In October 1988, the Marcoses and Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi were indicted on federal racketeering charges accusing them of defrauding U.S. banks of $165 million by refinancing U.S. properties purchased with $103 million plundered from the Philippine treasury.

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