BATAC - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hailed late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a hero for many Filipinos during a weekend of emotional celebrations by supporters of the former strongman ahead of his 100th birth anniversary on Monday.

Duterte's latest remarks are part of an escalating campaign to rehabilitate the image of Marcos and help the family's remarkable political comeback -- with the dictator's widow a congresswoman and their son angling to become vice-president. The outspoken Duterte, who has previously hailed Marcos as the country's best-ever president, has declared the anniversary a holiday in in Marcos's home province of Ilocos Norte where they still wield political power. "He was a president. To the Ilocanos, he was the greatest president. Why do we have to debate on that?" Duterte said late Saturday. "As far as the Ilocanos (are) concerned, Marcos is a hero," he added, calling criticisms of the former leader "hogwash" and "garbage".

Duterte, who has himself faced accusations of major human rights abuses, is a friend of the Marcos family and has played a key role in bolstering their efforts to regain the top echelons of political power.