IMELDA MARCOS TO RETURN HOME AND FACE TRIAL IN MANILA
Imelda Marcos, the Philippines' exiled former first lady who stands accused of looting her country, says she is going home.In a move that could reshape Philippine politics, President Corazon Aquino said the once-powerful wife of the late President Ferdinand Marcos could return to the Philippines, but only without her husband's remains. The government said Mrs. Marcos will face criminal charges in an effort to recoup $350 million the former first lady is said to have hidden in Swiss banks. This spring the reluctant Aquino government was nudged to take Mrs. Marcos to trial by a Swiss court decision. The court said Manila must charge Marcos by December as a condition for returning Marcos deposits believed to be in Swiss banks. Gambling on the government's offer, Mrs. Marcos said she will return to the Philippines to stand trial as "another painful step" toward bringing her spouse's remains home for burial. Last year, Mrs. Marcos was aquitted of fraud and racketeering charges in New York. Ferdinand Marcos died in 1989 in Hawaii, where the couple fled three years earlier following a popular revolt. The Marcos couple are alleged to have stolen up to $10 billion during their 20 years in power, although a five-year asset hunt by the Aquino government has recovered only a fraction of that amount. Mrs. Marcos' planned return comes as Mrs. Aquino winds up her shaky five-year rule and the country prepares for a potentially divisive presidential election next year. Aquino, whose politician-husband Benigno was assassinated in 1983 has said she will not run for reelection. By barring Marcos' remains, Aquino is trying to dampen the powerful emotional appeal of the late president. Although the wealthy Mrs. Marcos, analysts say, could influence the election with her money, her controversial presence could also split the forces loyal to the Marcos name.