Rexor Ver, a burly former Philippine Army colonel and a son of ousted armed forces chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver, sits watching television in the garage of Ferdinand Marcos' home in exile.
On tables in the middle of the garage are local newspapers, a slinky and a book entitled "Principles and Practices of Hawaiian Real Estate." (Another former colonel still loyal to Marcos is studying for an exam to become a realtor.)
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is known as Bongbong, arrives at the oceanfront home late at night, chats with one of Marcos' lawyers in the driveway for a while, then goes inside for what an aide says is a family conference.
It is another slow night at the Marcoses. The only thing that perks up Ver and the few other aides, bodyguards and servants who pass through the garage-cum-waiting room is a television news spot on the dismissal by a Hawaiian federal judge of three lawsuits that charged Marcos with murder, torture and the disappearance of thousands of Filipinos during his rule.
Five months after a military-led popular revolt forced Marcos and about 90 relatives and retainers to flee, the 68-year-old former president spends his days consulting his U.S. lawyers on his legal problems, plotting strategy with his dwindling entourage of followers and talking of the Philippines as if he still had a role to play there.
For example, in denying recently that he sought to destabilize the new Philippine government of President Corazon Aquino, Marcos said his main concern was "to unite the people against communism."
This statement struck many analysts in Manila and Washington as odd, since Marcos' 20-year-rule had been widely perceived as slowly but surely delivering the country into the hands of Communist rebels. But they said the statement also appeared to be highly presumptuous because they say Marcos hardly has the power or authority anymore to unite Filipinos on anything.
Yet, Marcos aides make it clear that, despite his disavowals, he still believes that one day he can return to power, or at least a position of major influence, in his homeland.
In the meantime, these analysts agree, he appears to be doing everything he can to cause trouble for Aquino in the apparent hope that her failure would make him look good by comparison.
A visit to the Marcos home makes it plain he is having trouble adjusting to his stature in exile: a political outcast in his country, discredited by exposure of his widespread corruption in office and abuse of power. As a bizarre coup attempt by Marcos supporters in Manila showed early this month, the "loyalist" cause has negligible public support.
In Manila, political observers and businessmen describe the calls for the return of Marcos as tantamount to appeals for a return to plunder of the national treasury, authoritarian rule, rampant nepotism and a system of economic favoritism benefiting a handful of Marcos cronies.
That Marcos clearly has no political future in the Philippines is reflected in the steady trickle of defections from the ranks of his supporters. Aside from the well-publicized defection of Jose Y. Campos, a Chinese financier who admitted having set up scores of dummy corporations for Marcos, a Philippine commission working to recover Marcos' "ill-gotten wealth" has received feelers from a number of other cronies. They include Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr., who benefited from a virtual monopoly on the coconut industry, and Rolando Gapud, a banker who handled some of the Marcos family's major investments.
On this day, the Marcos entourage is preoccupied with news of the latest former associates to "compromise" with the Aquino government. Among those are Glyceria Tantoco, a close friend of Marcos' wife, Imelda. Tantoco and her husband, who served as ambassador to the Vatican, enriched themselves under Marcos through business enterprises that benefited from official favoritism, according to government investigators.
Imelda Marcos is known to be bitter about being spurned by Glyceria Tantoco, who Marcos aides say is now cooperating with the Aquino government.
In this atmosphere, Marcos' remaining supporters now sometimes squabble openly about each other's loyalist credentials.
They appear to seek comfort in reports of wavering U.S. support for President Aquino, U.S. backing for a putative military junta to be headed by Aquino's military chief of staff, Gen. Fidel Ramos, and widespread support in the Philippine armed forces for the "loyalist" cause.
U.S. officials have rejected all of these perceptions.
The July 6 failed revolt in Manila by Marcos supporters "first and foremost in my mind highlighted the impotence of the loyalist movement," said Adm. Ronald Hays, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. He said the "lack of support when the loyalists made their play" came as a "good sign."
In an interview, Hays added, "It was demonstrated during this coup attempt that the majority of the military is loyal to the Aquino administration." He said Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who served under Marcos for 20 years before leading the Feb. 22-25 revolt that overthrew him, "did exactly the right thing when early on in the coup he came on the radio and declared his support for Mrs. Aquino."
Marcos supporters in Manila have been waging a somewhat ambivalent campaign on his behalf. But even hard-core supporters rarely say openly that they want him back; instead they talk of a return to "constitutional government" -- a euphemism for the Marcos regime that they feel was "duly reelected" in February under the 1973 constitution, which was abolished after the revolt. Even Arturo Tolentino, the 75-year-old maverick vice presidential running mate of Marcos and leader of the recent comic-opera coup attempt, regularly criticizes Marcos' presidential abuses and "repressive decrees."
Other supporters, like lawyer Oliver Lozano, resist what he calls "a daily trial by publicity amounting to character assassination." They seem to ignore evidence of widescale corruption and massive investments in foreign real estate, notably in New York.
Lozano, a native of Marcos' home province of Ilocos Norte, said recently in Manila that he knows the charges cannot be true because of Marcos' "character and upbringing, his adherence to simple living, his thrift, discipline and deeply religious nature."