Marcos seeks unity as Philippines marks 'people power' anniversary

Southeast Asian leaders attend the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called for reconciliation and unity on Saturday as the Southeast Asian nation marked the 37th anniversary of the "people power" revolution that toppled his dictator father.

Marcos, who was 28 years old when a helicopter whisked his family from the presidential palace in 1986, said he was one with the nation "in remembering those times of tribulation and how we came out of them united and stronger as a nation."

Marcos, 65, clinched a landslide victory in last year's presidential election on a simple message of unity. Despite its fall from grace, his family returned from exile in the 1990s and has remained a powerful force in local politics.

"I once again offer my hand of reconciliation to those with different political persuasions to come together as one in forging a better society - one that will pursue progress and peace and a better life for all Filipinos," he said in a social media post.

Marcos sent a wreath of flowers to the People Power Monument along a major highway in the capital Manila, where millions of protesters had gathered demanding the ouster of his father amid allegations of plunder and human rights violations. The elder Marcos died in 1989.

The family has denied siphoning off billions of dollars of state wealth during the dictatorship, and has waged a decades-long campaign to resurrect its reputation.

The younger Marcos's "presidency is an insult to the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom and democracy", human rights advocacy group Karapatan said in a statement.

The family of late former President Corazon Aquino, who assumed power after the elder Marcos's ouster, issued a statement saying the spirit of the 1986 uprising "guards and protects our democracy, confronting those who attempt to deceive us and undermine our rights and liberties".

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by William Mallard)