BATAC, Philippines (AFP) - With the kiss of a glass casket containing her dictator husband's embalmed body, the remarkable Imelda Marcos relaunched her political career on Friday at the age of 80.
For the irrepressible Marcos, paying loving respect to the controversial former Philippine president delivered a powerful message of family defiance to begin her campaign for a lower house seat in the nation's parliament.
"He was our best ever president," Marcos, typically immaculate in a tangerine blouse and matching pants, told reporters at the family home in the northern Philippine town of Batac after visiting the downstairs mausoleum.
"During his time we had territorial integrity, freedom, justice and human rights. Whatever else people may say those were the best times ever for the Philippines."
Marcos surprised all political observers in the Philippines when she registered at the final moment to run for her husband's old seat in national elections that will be held on May 10.
In line with election laws, she had not spoken publicly about her decision to revive her political career until Friday, the first day that parliamentary candidates could hit the campaign trail.
Marcos made it clear she wanted to achieve redemption for her husband, who is accused of stealing billions of dollars from state coffers during his 20-year rule, which ended with a "people power" revolution in 1986.
|With the kiss of a glass casket containing her dictator husband's embalmed body, the remarkable Imelda Marcos relaunched her political career at the age of 80.
"I did this to ensure and uphold political integrity and the truth," Marcos said when asked why she had decided to run for parliament.
The matriarch is in fact leading her brood into political battle, with daughter Imee running for governor of Ilocos Norte province, which remains a family stronghold, and son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Junior seeking a senate seat.
It will be the former first lady's first political outing since losing a presidential bid in 1992.
However she pointed to her experience as a key member of her husband's government, both as housing minister and governor of the Manila capital region, as proof she was worthy of public office.
"Everything is a priority. If we were able to make Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, a city for human beings, how much more we can do here with small towns and villages," she said.
But Marcos, whose fame is derived as much from her eccentricities as her once powerful status, also said she had grander visions of simply serving her potential constituents in the northern Philippines.
"Not only will I be in Congress. What I really want is to be a mother to each and every village so it will be a village fit for human beings.
"I will not stop until each and every village becomes a human settlement and also a paradise, because it is doable, because it is possible to make human settlements a paradise."
Age was no issue, she insisted.
"It is true that I am 80 years old, but I can also be a grandmother for our country."
Imee Marcos, who has held her father's old lower house seat in the past, said her mother's experience and political savvy was the Ilocanos' best bet.
"We need a real champion for the province because we are living in difficult times," she said.
"We must choose as our representative somebody who is intelligent, famous and influential."
The political clan has threatened to unravel in this election, with Imelda Marcos' nephew, incumbent provincial governor Michael Keon, running against his cousin Imee Marcos.
But locals say the widow has a good chance of winning her seat.
"The tricycle drivers here took a poll among themselves and it came out 85:15 in favour of Imelda," said a local rental car driver.