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Marcos joins Pacquiao, GMA in run for Congress

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos filed her candidacy for next year's congressional elections, joining the country's boxing champion and the outgoing president in the star-studded race for the lower house.

Strongman Ferdinand Marcos's flamboyant 80-year-old widow, who has successfully fought off more than 900 civil and criminal cases against her, dispatched a lawyer shortly before midnight Tuesday to file her nomination papers in Illocos Norte, her husband's northern stronghold where she is popular.

Tuesday was the last day for nominations for the May 2010 national elections.

Other top candidates for Congress include Manny Pacquiao, who last month won his seventh world boxing title in as many weight classes.

Pacquiao ran unsuccessfully in 2007 for a congressional seat in southern General Santos city, where he began his career. This time he is running in Alabel township in neighboring Sarangani province.

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President Arroyo will become the first Philippine president to run for a lower house seat after stepping down. Barred by the constitution from seeking a second term, Mrs. Arroyo filed her candidacy Tuesday for the 268-member House of Representatives in her home province of Pampanga.

Mrs. Arroyo, 62, has denied allegations of vote fraud and corruption, and has survived four impeachment bids and four attempted power grabs by disenchanted troops who accused her of mismanaging the country.

Opinion polls have consistently found her to be the least popular president since Marcos, who was ousted in 1986 and sent into US exile with his wife and children.

Imelda Marcos returned in 1991 and ran unsuccessfully for president the following year. She won a congressional seat from her home province of Leyte and served from 1995 to 1998.

The Marcos family still wields influence, despite accusations of embezzlement, human rights abuses and Imelda Marcos' ostentatious lifestyle when most of the country wallowed in poverty during the husband's 20-year rule.

Marcos will be running against a former vice governor in the second district of Batac, said Apolinario Saturnino from the Elections Commission.

She is seeking to replace her son, Rep. Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos Jr., who is running for the Senate, while her daughter Imee is running for governor of Illocos Norte, a position that has been held by a cousin.

The presidential race is shaping up as a contest among the son of the late president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino, Benigno "Nonoy" Aquino III; fellow Senator Manuel Villar, a wealthy real estate developer; and administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro, a former defense chief.

Former President Joseph Estrada, who was ousted by anti-corruption protests in 2001, also filed his candidacy for president, but it is expected to be challenged because of the constitutional ban on a second term. Estrada claims he was removed illegally. He was convicted of corruption and pardoned by Mrs. Arroyo.

About 17,000 positions are up for grabs, from village chief to president. There are about 45 million eligible voters.

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