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Marcos Colleague Gets Offer to Lead Opposition

November 25, 1989

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ One of the closest associates of former President Ferdinand Marcos returned from three years exile in the United States and today was offered the leadership of the opposition.

Eduardo Cojuangco, a first cousin of President Corazon Aquino, came back late Friday to this country where he was banished in 1986, according to radio station DZRH.

Cojuangco, 54, told DZRH in an interview that he wanted to return to his homeland to clear his name of allegations that he helped the former president loot the Philippine treasury of billions of dollars before Marcos’ ouster in the 1986 military-civilian uprising.

Mrs. Aquino’s staff appeared caught off guard by Cojuangco’s return. Assistant spokeswoman Lourdes Sytangco said Cojuangco may have traveled under another name since his real name did not appear on any manifests of flights arriving at Manila’s airport.

Rep. Rodolfo Albano, former minority leader in the House of Representatives, said Cojuangco’s return would boost opposition forces, still grasping for a leader since the death of Marcos in September.

″If he will accept it, we will wholeheartedly give the opposition leadership to him,″ Albano said of Cojuangco. ″We welcome him as the leading light of the opposition.″

Albano said Cojuangco’s return ″will not only cause the realignment of forces of the opposition, but it will be more like a big blood transfusion.″

Cojuangco, a former provincial governor, left the Philippines in 1986 aboard the same U.S. military plane that carried Marcos into exile in Hawaii.

He told DZRH he had been issued a passport by the government to allow his return. But presidential spokesman Adolfo Azcuna said the palace was unaware of any passport issued to Cojuangco.

Cojuangco’s passport, along with those of the Marcos family, was canceled in 1986.

Mrs. Aquino has refused to allow Marcos’ body to return from Hawaii for burial and has also banned the late president’s immediate family, citing threats to national security.

″I am thankful that we have been able to come home because for a long time I have wanted to come back here,″ Cojuangco said in the radio interview.

During the Marcos administration, Cojuangco became the symbol of ″crony capitalism,″ in which associates of Marcos and his wife, Imelda, were given preferential treatment in establishing monopolies to control exports, manufacturing and other aspects of the economy.

Cojuangco was once described as the second most powerful figure in the Philippine economy after the president himself. He had been mentioned as a possible successor to Marcos.

Cojuangco was variously chairman of the San Miguel Corp., the country’s largest food and beverage company; the United Coconut Planters Bank; and head of the state monopoly for exporting coconuts.

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