A bitterly divided Philippines awaits the return of Marcos' body

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — MANILA, Philippines -- The embalmed body of Ferdinand E. Marcos will come home Tuesday to the country he ruled for 20 years -- a country fearful that the return of his corpse could resurrect his spiritual legacy.

Many Filipinos believe that President Fidel V. Ramos is walking a political tightrope by allowing Marcos to be buried in his hometown of Batac in Ilocos Norte province.


Hundreds of thousands of Marcos loyalists, some of them hired for the occasion, are expected during a four-day wake that cynics view as more an attempt to revive political fortunes than to bury a dictator.

The clannish natives of Ilocos Norte scoff at accusations that Marcos systematically rifled the nation's treasury of billions of dollars and ordered the killings of political opponents like Benigno S. Aquino Jr.


The Marcos mansion in Batac, a three-story building styled after a native hut, is already a memorial. The body of the dictator's mother, who died three years ago, is displayed under glass downstairs. His body will be put on permanent display upstairs, with his uniforms and other paraphernalia of his life.

Mr. Ramos hopes that his gesture will reconcile the Aquino and Marcos clans, whose political feuds have caused instability for decades.

When Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989, President Corazon C. Aquino refused to allow the body to be returned to the Philippines. Her husband's slaying as he stepped off a plane after three years in exile enraged the nation and led to Marcos' downfall.

Mr. Ramos has staked the Philippines' future on efforts to reach peace with Muslims in the south, Communist guerrillas who have been fighting the government for 25 years and the military pTC renegades who tried to oust Mrs. Aquino, as well as with the two feuding clans.

Unless military and political factions are reconciled, he argues, the impoverished nation cannot create the climate of stability vital to attracting foreign investment.

Although this reconciliation policy is hailed as positive, Mr. Ramos' advisers and Aquino supporters have urged him not to accommodate the Marcos clan's efforts to obtain a full amnesty for the late dictator for misappropriating public funds.

There are whispers that the family, in return, is ready to relinquish some of the Marcos billions that Manila's depleted treasury needs.

Trying to maintain the balance between the clans, Mr. Ramos will not attend the arrival of the coffin from Hawaii or the funeral.