The Philippines’ new first lady Louise Araneta-Marcos insists she has no interest in joining her husband’s government — but observers say she is likely to hold major sway.
The 62-year-old lawyer, nicknamed “Liza”, shuns the public spotlight and rarely gives media interviews.
But she is no shrinking violet.
Tough, smart and used to getting her way, Liza is widely believed to have been the architect of husband Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s campaign for the top job, after sidelining his influential mother Imelda and older sister Imee, who is a senator.
And Liza — who did not respond to AFP’s requests for an interview — will likely retain her clout after he is sworn into office on Thursday, according to observers and people who know her.
“Liza is tough, in many ways she’s BBM’s backbone,” said Michael Marcos Keon, a cousin of Marcos Jr and mayor of Laoag City, the capital of the family’s northern stronghold Ilocos Norte province. BBM are Marcos Jr’s initials.
“I don’t think he makes any decision without talking to the wife,” said a Manila lawyer who attended university with Liza.
“(She) will be the number one adviser, the number one voice to listen to, the last voice to listen to.”
Liza is rumoured to have an icy relationship with 92-year-old Imelda and Marcos Jr’s older sister — both were conspicuously absent from his presidential campaign rallies.
“It’s pretty clear she was in charge of the campaign and she does have this personality where she gets what she wants,” said one observer.
– ‘Super powers’ –
Liza and Marcos Jr married in Italy in 1993 and have three sons.
They met in New York City in 1989 — she was working as a lawyer; he was in exile after his father was toppled from power three years earlier.
It was an unlikely match.
Liza comes from an elite family linked to the political party that opposed the late dictator and helped to end his brutal and corrupt 20-year rule.
“It wasn’t love at first sight,” Liza told talk show host Aster Amoyo last year.
“But when you get to know him, how can you not fall in love, right?”
Two years after the patriarch’s death in 1989, the Marcoses returned to the Philippines and began their successful political comeback.
Marcos Jr won a congressional seat in Ilocos Norte. He later served as governor of the province and had a stint in the Senate.
Liza meanwhile worked as a lawyer and also taught law at universities, according to a CV posted on the website of her firm M & Associates.
– ‘My role model is me’-
“Early on we decided that he’s the politician, he’s the star. I’m just the back-up dancer,” Liza told Amoyo.
In the same interview, Marcos Jr said his wife had “super powers”, and would get angry, cry or flirt when she wanted an upgrade or a ticket to a sold-out event.
“But I get my way,” Liza interjected.
Liza said Marcos Jr told her of his decision to run for president while watching the Marvel superhero film “Ant-Man”.