Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos says he feels "betrayed" by the American system but will comply with a judge's order in his federal racketeering case and "take my destiny, whatever that may be."
"I am not afraid to go to jail," Marcos told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview at his home here Thursday. "I would probably be dead by the time the trial is over. I'm feeling in pain every day."Marcos and his wife, Imelda, were indicted Oct. 21 by a federal grand jury in New York on federal racketeering charges accusing them of plundering more than $100 million from their homeland and funneling it into Swiss and Hong Kong bank accounts, Manhattan real estate and fine art.
Mrs. Marcos pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York on Monday, but her husband's arraignment was delayed pending the report of a government physician who examined him Monday.
Defense lawyers contend the 71-year-old Marcos, who remained in a wheelchair during the interview, is too frail to make the 10-hour flight to New York and hinted his poor health may cause his trial to be suspended altogether.
But Marcos, who appeared tired but remained alert, said he would comply with a federal court order requiring him to submit fingerprints, palm prints and handwriting and voice samples to the FBI here by next Wednesday or face contempt charges.
"I'll take my destiny, whatever that may be, but I'm going to fight for my dignity and my honor," Marcos said in his first meeting with the press since being indicted two weeks ago.
Although the grand jury indictments were handed up after nearly two years of investigation, and grand juries in Honolulu and Alexandria, Va., are also investigating him, Marcos said he was confident he would be vindicated.
"I don't think they have any evidence," said Marcos, offering the results of past investigations in the United States, the Philippines and Japan that cleared him of similar charges.
The interview was held at his sprawling hillside home overlooking Honolulu as Marcos prepared to leave for an appointment with an eye doctor. Wearing a dark suit and tie, Marcos greeted a reporter with a firm handshake and smiled wanly when asked about his health.
"I'm tired and in pain; I'm on the way to the doctor right now," he said.
In the past six months, Marcos has complained of chest pains that have sent him to the hospital, and of an eye ailment and of flare-ups of old war injuries of the leg and the knee.
During the interview, Marcos' face appeared bloated and his eyes watered as he answered questions while seated in the wheelchair. He sometimes hesitated while choosing words in English, once turning to an aide for help remembering a word that slipped his memory.
Defense lawyers for Marcos have presented letters from two Honolulu doctors and Marcos' personal physician, saying Marcos suffered from an enlarged heart and a thickening of the heart muscle.
Marcos, a staunch U.S. ally during his 20 years as president of the Philippines, said he held no animosity toward President Reagan, who once hailed him as a valuable ally.