MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Hundreds of supporters urged former first lady Imelda Marcos on Sunday to run for president, but she ignored the plea and instead aired her side of a graft conviction that could put her in jail.
The widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos made her first public appearance after the Supreme Court upheld a graft conviction that brought her closer to possible imprisonment.
``Why is it a crime to build hospitals for the poor?″ Mrs. Marcos asked about 500 rowdy supporters in Manila’s slum district of Tondo, contending some of the money in the graft case was used to build a hospital for the poor.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s 1993 conviction of Mrs. Marcos on a corruption charge stemming from the leasing of property owned by a government-run commuter railway. She faces nine to 12 years in prison.
Mrs. Marcos and former transportation minister Jose Dans were accused of entering into ``unfavorable″ contracts by leasing two parcel of lands owned by the railway agency at unreasonably low rates. Dans was found innocent.
Mrs. Marcos, now a congresswoman, was also ordered to pay $4.7 million in damages to the government.
The court said Mrs. Marcos, 68, can appeal the ruling one final time, while remaining free on bond.
Sunday’s rally was organized by a pro-Marcos group to urge her to seek the presidency in May 11 elections.
Mrs. Marcos faces numerous other criminal and civil cases related to her husband’s 20-year rule.
The government claims Marcos stole billions of dollars during his administration. It is seeking more than $500 million in Marcos’ Swiss banks accounts.
The Marcoses were driven into exile in Hawaii in February 1986. Marcos, who died in Honolulu three years later, admitted no wrongdoing.
Mrs. Marcos returned to the Philippines in 1991, and was defeated in a May 1992 presidential election.