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Marcos: Conviction Hurt Candidacy

April 13, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Former first lady Imelda Marcos declared Monday that a 1993 graft conviction is damaging her presidential candidacy and should be reversed by the Philippine Supreme Court.

In January, a five-judge Supreme Court panel upheld a 12-year prison term for the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but allowed her one more appeal to the entire court.

``It’s very damaging,″ Mrs. Marcos told reporters while visiting supporters on a hunger strike to protest the panel’s decision. She said the conviction was preventing her from looking ``like a serious candidate.″

Mrs. Marcos is one of 11 candidates hoping to succeed President Fidel Ramos, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking re-election.

Mrs. Marcos, currently a congresswoman representing her home province of Leyte, is given little chance of winning the election. Recent popularity polls have given her about 2.3 percent of the vote.

Clasping the hands of some participants in the hunger strike, which began a week ago, Mrs. Marcos urged them to stop the protest. The protesters _ who have been drinking liquids and eating cookies _ agreed.

In the corruption case, Mrs. Marcos was convicted of having granted leases on government-owned land at improperly low rates to the Philippine General Hospital Foundation, which she headed. The land was then sublet to another company at much higher rates.

The case is the only one in which Mrs. Marcos, 68, has been convicted of corruption, although she faces numerous other criminal and civil cases related to her husband’s 20-year rule.

In its January decision, the panel upheld one of two counts in Mrs. Marcos’ conviction. It sentenced her to nine to 12 years in prison and ordered her to pay $5.1 million in damages to the government.

Mrs. Marcos appealed the decision to the full Supreme Court in February, insisting she did not benefit personally from the alleged corruption.

She said money gained from the leases helped finance construction of the Philippine Heart Center. Prosecutors did not challenge this, but maintained that the foundation should have been charged more.

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