A Philippines court has cleared the way for the trial of more than a dozen lawsuits aimed at recovering billions of dollars the government says were stolen by former President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda.

In a decision made Thursday and released Friday, the Philippines anti-graft court said the couple had repeatedly ignored summonses to answer the civil suits. The court also rejected claims that Marcos was too ill to respond to the allegations.In New York, however, U.S. attorneys agreed Thursday to temporarily separate Marcos from its $345 million racketeering case because they said he was in too poor of health to stand trial anytime soon.

The U.S. action means only the case against Imelda Marcos and others will proceed for now.

The decision by the Philippines court clears the way for at least 13 civil suits to go to trial. They are among 40 suits filed by the government in July 1987 against the Marcoses and about 300 associates to recover up to $10 billion they allegedly plundered during his 20-year rule.

The suits claim a total of $112 billion dollars in damages.

Thursday's ruling means the trial can proceed even if the Marcoses are not represented by attorneys.

The Marcoses have been living in Honolulu since the February 1986 revolt that ended his rule and swept Corazon Aquino to power. Aquino has refused to allow the Marcoses to return for security reasons.

Thursday's ruling noted repeated efforts by Filipino officials to serve the summonses on the Marcoses in Honolulu. It said all of the summonses were ignored and the couple was declared in default.

Under Philippine law, defendants in civil suits who are outside the country may be served summonses at their last known address or through publication in a newspaper in that area. A court may declare a defendant in default if he fails to answer the summons in 60 days.

For the Marcoses, that deadline lapsed Jan. 9, the ruling noted.