Deposed president Ferdinand Marcos said today that he had become "irrelevant" politically and called on Filipino soldiers to support the government and military leadership of President Corazon Aquino.
He also denounced what he said was a "hate campaign" against him by the Aquino government and warned former political allies who are now condemning him to "shut up" or risk being implicated in corrupt practices during his administration.
Marcos made the statements in a telephone interview with Manila radio station DYBB from his exile home in Hawaii, where he said his wife, Imelda, stood sobbing beside him.
She said afterward in a voice breaking with emotion that she and her husband had been stripped of dignity and were living in Honolulu as "prisoners" constantly harassed by reporters.
Both Marcoses denied charges they had plundered the Philippine economy of billions of dollars during their 20 years in the Malacanang presidential palace. Imelda Marcos insisted she was "not extravagant" and could not believe she had left behind almost 3,000 pairs of shoes in her huge palace dressing room.
The nearly hour-long broadcast interview with the Marcoses was the first aired here since the 68-year-old president, his family and entourage flew into exile Feb. 26. It came amid a sudden barrage of media exposure as Marcos has granted U.S. television interviews in an apparent effort to get across his side of the story.
"I am ready to help even my opponent as long as she does not allow the leftist terrorist subversives to take over our country," Marcos said. He asked soldiers to maintain unity in the military and help Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, who turned against him Feb. 22 to lead a military mutiny that led to his ouster.
"I am irrelevant," Marcos said. "I am not thinking of power but the welfare of our republic and our people. I have no intention of starting a civil war. I have no intention of intervening in politics."
Marcos also issued a warning to prosecutors who tried his former military chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver, and 25 other defendants on charges of involvement in the 1983 assassination of Corazon Aquino's husband, opposition leader Benigno Aquino. Marcos denied he had manipulated the trial and asserted that he had been carrying out the demands of U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth on the matter.
"Ambassador Bosworth said there should be a trial and that the trial should include Gen. Ver," Marcos said. The U.S. Embassy declined comment on the allegations.
Marcos warned also that if his detractors become "too cruel, too arrogant," he "may be forced to reveal all the documents I have." He did not elaborate, but denied he had used public funds to amass a vast property empire abroad.
"Whatever my sins are against our country and our God, stealing money from our government and our people is not among them," Marcos said, insisting that investments in land in the Philippines while he was a lawyer more than 20 years ago accounted for his wealth.
"What happened is so cruel," said an emotional Imelda Marcos in a subsequent interview. "People think we have hidden wealth. But we just depend on the Filipino community here for our day-to-day needs. If we had hidden wealth, we would not be doing this because it's so shameful."
She added, "I'm selfless for the Filipino people. We wanted to give the Filipino people dignity, and the only way to strengthen their spirit is to give them beauty. What I did to amass wealth was not meant to enrich myself."
She said the Marcoses would return to the Philippines "if we are needed," but not if this would cause problems. "We would rather die in hardship here than cause trouble in the Philippines.