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86-year-old former First Lady still has influence in Congress, Speaker says

Almost three decades have passed since the family of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos left Malacañang, but his widow, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, remains an influential figure in Philippine politics, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said on Thursday.

Belmonte believes Imelda, who marked her 86th birthday on Thursday, could still sway some of her peers House of Representatives. in the 16th Congress. Imelda is representing the second district of Ilocos Norte in Congress.

Belmonte said that while he doesn’t consider Mrs. Marcos as one of the active members of the House, she is at least “more present than some others.”

“At the moment, she may have some health issues but I still see her from time to time,” he told GMA News Online on Thursday.

Asked for his assessment of Mrs. Marcos’ performance as a lawmaker, Belmonte said: “She can probably exert some influence among her friends.”

The Ilocos Norte lawmaker belongs to the independent minority bloc led by her nephew, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

However, she doesn’t take part in the group’s press briefings and isn’t seen at committee hearings. She is sometimes seen attending plenary sessions but only staying for around an hour or so.

Last year, Mrs. Marcos logged a total attendance record of 31 days out of a total of 70 session days.

The former First Lady started her second term in Congress on the wrong foot—literally— after she slipped and fell on the House’s floor a few hours before President Benigno Aquino III gave his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2013.

She reportedly suffered a minor injury from the incident but recovered quickly.

A few months later, in November 2013, Mrs. Marcos landed in the hospital for her high blood sugar levels.

A check of the House’s legislative information system showed that Mrs. Marcos has authored or co-authored a total of 40 national and local bills for the duration of the 16th Congress from July 1, 2013 to June 11, 2015.

This pales in comparison to the 257 measures that detained former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has filed or co-authored for the same period.

Of the 14 bills which Mrs. Marcos solely authored, 10 were local proposals which seek to benefit her constituents in Ilocos Norte.

Among the local measures she filed is a proposal to construct a railway system from Laoag City to Poro, San Fernando, La Union after the build-operate-transfer scheme, and the bill establishing a special economic zone and freeport in Ilocos Norte.

The national bills she filed, meanwhile, proposed the creation of a fund to help the Philippines achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, strengthening the government’s policy to prevent and control AIDS, and amending a provision in the Local Government Code so that complaints against local oficials will be filed before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan instead of the Office of the President.

Though she isn’t one of the more diligent members of the House, Belmonte said the House leadership “will call on her if necessary” if they want her help on certain matters.

“But so far the House works smoothly even with the opposition as well as independents,” he said. -NB, GMA News
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