New Internationalist

Poverty elimination, Marcos-style

The strong scent of Perry Ellis perfume instantly fills the air. Heads turn in her direction as she walks by. Photojournalists shift their lenses to her and away from the stage.

Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines, had just entered the conference hall. She strides confidently in her two-inch black velvet shoes.

Donning a knee-length lavender cocktail dress, Imelda moves in a queen-like fashion – tall, chin up and proud. A long silk black scarf hangs elegantly around her shoulders. It is 11 am in a posh hotel in Makati City. Imelda is attending the launch of the Philippine government’s fourth progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Marcos has not changed except for a few wrinkles that, perhaps, thousands of pesos of cosmetic surgery could no longer conceal.

Imelda Marcos. Photo credit: Lisa Waller Rogers's blog.

Imelda Marcos is the wife of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose 20-year military rule had been marked by corruption and countless human rights violations.

The late strongman ruled the Philippines from 1966, creating what has been dubbed  ‘a reign of terror’, until a historic people’s uprising in 1986.

Imelda’s lavish lifestyle during the Marcos era – from a million-dollar jewellery collection to 3,000 pairs of shoes – gave birth to the term ‘Imeldific’, which usually refers to individuals living grand, lavish or luxurious lifestyles.

Decades passed and yet Imelda Marcos remains as Imeldific as before. Even with countless cases of corruption and charges of ill-gotten wealth filed by various administrations and human rights victims against the Marcoses, she remains scot-free and still lives a life that is as lavish as can be.

And yet, despite this, Marcos may end up representing the Philippines in the forthcoming United Nations Review Summit on the MDGs to be held in the United States on 20-22 September.

Marcos, now a congressional representative of Ilocos Norte, a province in the northern Philippines, is the chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on MDGs.

The eight MDGs are a set of specific and time-bound development goals committed by the governments to be achieved by 2015, using 1990 data as baseline.

The eight goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and female empowerment, reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Various sectors have said that Marcos should not be representing the Philippines in a poverty alleviation summit.

After all, the excesses of the Marcoses – billions in ill-gotten wealth – have been blamed for the country’s economic woes.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in 1979. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

They also said that Marcos should not represent the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, whose mother, former President Corazon Aquino, led a people’s uprising against the Marcoses in 1986 to end their 20-year military rule.

Indeed, one wonders what she can say about poverty alleviation.

Imelda Marcos said the decision is not in her hands. 

‘I am just a member of Congress,’ she said, adding that it would be up to the leadership of the House of Representatives to send her to the UN Summit.

According to practice, the Chair of the House Committee on MDGs joins the Philippine delegation to the UN summit on MDGs. The delegation is headed by no lesser figure than the president of the Philippines.

Marcos, however, dismissed the criticisms against her, dishing out her usual line that the Marcoses have always been attacked by detractors.

‘I have been persecuted and ridiculed for my commitment to the good, true and beautiful. I’m used to it,’ Marcos said, without batting an eyelash.

Victims of human rights victims during the Marcos years certainly wouldn’t agree with her.

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