MANILA,  September 25
, 2004 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Former first lady Imelda Marcos stole the show at what should have been a forum focused on Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Jose de Venecia at the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) Wednesday night.

Marcos treated an astonished audience, which included members of the diplomatic corps, to an emotional outburst that saw her reciting a litany of the achievements made by her late husband, strongman Ferdinand Marcos, and challenging the government and the media to conduct an "audit" of his 20-year regime.

The MOPC "Congress Night" forum at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City began with Drilon and De Venecia’s speeches on the legislative agenda of their respective chambers. These were followed by a sober discussion of events ongoing at the House and the Senate, including controversial issues such as the pork barrel allocations and politics.

As the forum was about to wrap up, MOPC president Antonio Lopez asked Drilon and De Venecia how the Arroyo administration plans to put a closure on cases involving Marcos’ hidden wealth and unresolved human rights abuse cases as well as the pending plunder charges against deposed President Joseph Estrada.

The two lawmakers replied that during the last National Security Council at Malacañang, it was agreed there should be closure on the two issues and that President Arroyo is considering the creation of a "truth commission" to achieve this.

Apparently feeling that her late husband was being unjustly pilloried again, the flamboyant Imelda stood up and said there was "clearly something wrong" when after 18 years and 425 cases against the Marcos family, justice has yet to come.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," she said. "Even in the United States, where we have conceded our jurisdiction, there was no conviction (against us)."

Noting that the issue of the day was the fiscal crisis hitting the country, Marcos said the government and the media should conduct an audit of the P425-billion national budget during her husband’s term in office. She said the amount is minuscule compared to "trillions" involved in the national budget of the government under former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

"Let’s conduct an audit so that we’ll find out what they’ve done in their six years," she said. "You in the media, you are more powerful than guns. Guns can kill you only once but the media can kill you over and over again even if you are already dead."

Marcos said the current image of her late husband as a "dictator" must be corrected because "the perception now becomes the truth."

"They call him a dictator? He was elected four times. Yes, also in 1986, we won then. During his rule, he held 15 local elections and plebiscites and that’s almost every year and they call him a dictator?" she said.

"I began (my involvement with people) when I was 15 and now I’m 75. It’s about time we get a taste of the truth because truth will set us free," Imelda added.

She said even the US courts absolved them of alleged human rights violations during the martial law years.

Marcos also called for an audit of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, saying it illegally seized "the assets of the people."

As MOPC past president and STAR columnist Ricardo Puno steered the forum back to Drilon and De Venecia, Marcos again gained the attention of the guests when she distributed an 855-page book titled "Let the Marcos Truth Prevail" as the lawmakers were speaking.

She later told reporters that she does not want a compromise on the tug-of-war over her family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth, but that she is open and supportive of efforts to put closure on the issues surrounding her late husband.

"You can fool some people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time," she said. "Why are they treating me like this? I’m a widow and according to the Bible, there’s a special place for widows and orphans."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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