Philippines: Hundreds Sickened at Birthday Bash for Ex-First Lady Imelda Marcos

Basilio Sepe and Luis Liwanag
170703-PH-poisoning-620.jpg A medic treats victims who became ill at the birthday celebration outside Manila for former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, July 3, 2019.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

A 90th birthday celebration for former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos turned into a health scare Wednesday when as many as 261 guests and supporters were treated for apparent food poisoning, officials said.

The victims were rushed to Manila area hospitals after suffering from vomiting and dizziness. Many had eaten a dish of stewed meat and egg, said Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the National Red Cross.

“They ate spoiled food. It was food poisoning,” Gordon told BenarNews.

“We alerted nearby hospitals, where we transported some of them. Medics were rushed to the site, where emergency first aid was given to those who had been struck,” he said.

Imelda Marcos is the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, when a people-power revolution toppled him. The family fled to Hawaii where he died three years later.

Last November, a Philippine court sentenced Imelda Marcos to more than 40 years in prison for hiding stolen wealth in foundations she had created. While the court has issued warrants for her arrest, she remains free as her lawyers argue for leniency because of her age.

The party at the Ynares Sports Complex in the eastern suburb of Pasig City was to be a joyous day-long event to mark the political rebirth of the Marcos family. Instead, health workers frantically assisted party goers.

The Marcos matriarch was celebrating her 90th birthday two months after her daughter, Imee, was elected senator and the family won a series of elective local posts in their northern hometown.

Sen. Imee Marcos apologized profusely and assured attendees that the family would handle the hospital needs.

“We will take care of those who were hospitalized and hopefully we will visit them one-by-one,” she said.

In a statement, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said all victims of food poisoning were rushed to hospitals and the organizers were trying to determine the cause.

“The organizers assured that they would work with authorities. I apologize and ask for understanding for this incident. We assure you we will help all the victims until they are discharged from the hospitals,” he said.

A poster announcing the 90th birthday of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos hangs outside the sports complex where party-goers were treated after becoming ill, July 3, 2019. (Luis Liwanag/BenarNews)
A poster announcing the 90th birthday of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos hangs outside the sports complex where party-goers were treated after becoming ill, July 3, 2019. (Luis Liwanag/BenarNews)

Philippine strongman

Imelda’s late husband, Ferdinand, was believed to have plundered government coffers of up to U.S. $10 billion (510 billion pesos), as the Southeast Asian country spiraled into poverty while wracked by Muslim and communist rebellions. Thousands of anti-Marcos activists were killed or went missing during his rule.

Imelda Marcos and her three children were allowed to return home and have since seen their political fortunes improve.

She served as a congresswoman and a governor representing the family’s home region. Her son, Ferdinand Jr., served as a senator but lost his bid to be vice president in 2016.

Among the staunch supporters of the Marcos family is President Rodrigo Duterte who has said he considers Marcos, the dead dictator, his political idol. He also said the family, particularly Imee Marcos, had contributed to his campaign when he ran for office in 2016.

In return, Duterte allowed the transfer of the remains of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to a heroes’ cemetery in Manila, provoking widespread public protests. He also said the Marcos family was willing to give an undisclosed amount of money to the national treasury, while maintaining that the family never stole a cent.


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