10th President of the Philippines

Ferdinand Marcos (September 11, 1917 -- September 28, 1989)

Early life and career:

Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos was born September 11, 1917, in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte outside Laoag City to parents Mariano Marcos and Josefa Edralin. He was named after Ferdinand VII of Spain and baptized into the Philippine Independent Church. According to the Marcos family's oral history, the family name was originally Tabucboc, and their Ilokano roots have some Japanese and Chinese ancestry. Ferdinand was a champion debater, orator, student activist and writer in their school newspaper at the University of the Philippines, where he also participated in boxing, swimming and wrestling as well as sharpshooting.

In December 1938, Mariano Marcos, his brother Pio, his son Ferdinand, and his brother-in-law Quirino Lizardo were prosecuted for the murder of Julio Nalundasan. On September 20, 1935, the day after Nalundasan (for the second time) defeated Mariano Marcos for the National Assembly seat for Ilocos Norte, Nalundasan was shot and killed in his house in Batac. According to two witnesses, the four had conspired to assassinate Nalundasan, with Ferdinand Marcos eventually doing the killing. In late January 1939, they were denied bail and in the fall[when?] of 1939 they were convicted. Ferdinand and Lizardo received the death penalty for premeditated murder, while Mariano and Pio were found guilty only of contempt of court. The Marcos family took their appeal to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, which on October 22, 1940, overturned the lower court's decision and acquitted them of all charges but contempt.

In 1939, while incarcerated, Ferdinand Marcos graduated cum laude with a law degree from the U.P. College of Law. If he had not been put in jail for twenty seven days, he would have graduated magna cum laude. He was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society. While in detention Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr. of Ilocos Norte helped Marcos study for the bar exams by providing a desk lamp in his cell, law books and reviewers. Marcos passed the bar examination with the highest score on record, while also writing an 830-page defense. Several people contested his score and a retake was taken albeit an oral bar examination witnessed by several people. His second bar examination resulted in a 100% score, the highest grade obtained in the Philippine Bar.

Military Service:

The war came to the Philippines a day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Marcos knew beforehand that it was coming and had prepared himself to "die a thousand deaths" in his country's defense, as he had promised in his murder trial. With the main Japanese force pushing its way South from Lingayen Gulf landings, the young intelligence officer was all over the path of Japanese advance in his Oldsmobile to assess the situation. One day, he found himself in a hand-to-hand combat against the invaders for the control of the key bridge across the Agno River behind enemy lines. Here he nearly got bayoneted before he could turn around and dispatch his two attackers with his pistol. He later found himself fighting a rear guard action as the men of the USAFFE were ordered to retreat to Bataan. He was with the last unit to slip into Bataan before the last bridge was blown up in the face of the pursuing Japanese. To this peninsula at the mouth of Manila Bay, MacArthur's men clung for three months against a modern army of 85,000 men.

In Bataan, Marcos was wounded three times, captured once but managed to slip back to his unit after killing one of his captors. He was cited and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a four-man intelligence patrol in destroying an enemy battery atop Mt. Natib that had been raining shells on the Filipino soldiers. He killed 50 Japanese soldiers who rushed to confront them. With the loss of the battery, the enemy advance was blunted and the fall of Bataan was delayed by another three months. Marcos was recommended by General Wainright, commander of allied troops in Bataan, for the Congressional Medal of Honor for having fought bravely and beyond the call of duty at the junction of Salian and Abo-Abo River. Again, he was cited for heroism that helped turn the battle on the slopes of Mt. Samat, one of the fiercest in Bataan.

When the end came, Marcos and his companions refused to surrender and tried to escape towards the mountains of Zambales. But they were captured and forced to join the Death March, a trek of 100 kilometers across the plains of Central Luzon under the scorching sun, without food and water. Of the 50,000 men who started the trek, 15,000 collapsed along the way. Of the remainder, half died within three months in Camp O'Donnel in Capas, Tarlac. Five thousand more died of delayed shock after getting out.

Marcos was released on August 4, 1942, emaciated beyond recognition but grateful to be alive. His mother had been waiting for him at the gate. He had hardly rested at their home in Manila, when he was arrested and brought to Fort Santiago by the Kempetai, the secret police, for questioning. For the next eight days, his torturers tried to break his will and make him reveal the hideouts of known guerrilla leaders, but to no avail. The beatings stopped only when he agreed to lead them to Laguna where the guerrilla leader, Vicente Umali, was reported to be in hiding. Umali's men jumped the Japanese convoy and sprung Marcos who was too weak to walk. A convalescent in the mountains until December, he saw how factionalism, jealousy and suspicions had weakened the resistance. Early in 1943, he was off on a dangerous mission of establishing communications between the various guerrilla groups, to include Col. Fertig in Agusan and Col. Volckmann, commander of USAFIL-NL in Isabela. For the rest of 1943, he risked capture and death criss-crossing the archipelago in pursuit of his mission. He fell short of overcoming their division, but the communication network he established proved to be valuable in preparing the ground for the return of General MacArthur and his liberation forces. He was in communication with the Liberator.

Marcos organized his own Maharlika group of spies based in Manila. With the return of American forces, he fused his group into the USAFIL-NL under Volckmann who appointed Marcos major of intelligence. Again, Marcos was near death of malaria, hidden among cancer patients in the Manila General Hospital with the knowledge of President Jose P. Laurel and Gen. Mateo Capinpin, both of the puppet government. There he met with Manuel Roxas, who was collaborating with the Japanese. Marcos told Roxas of MacArthur's order for his escape.

Marcos' intelligence work near the end of the war helped the combined guerilla forces to mass effectively against the retreating army of General Yamashita and achieve a decisive victory at Bessang Pass. Following a directive of the Commonwealth government to begin the transition from war to peace, a plan was developed to have Marcos as civil affairs officer for the nine provinces of Northern Luzon. His first job was to disarm the guerrillas, speed up their return to normal lives and restore peace and order in the region. Volckmann had to order his airlift from the frontline to prepare him for his new job. Thus, while the war was winding down, Marcos had his first heady savor of politics as civil affairs officer of Northern Luzon.

House of Representatives:

When the Philippines was granted independence on July 4, 1946 by the American government, the Philippine Congress was established. Marcos ran and was twice elected as representative of the 1st district of Ilocos Norte, 1949-1959. He was named chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Industry and member of the Defense Committee headed by Ramon Magsaysay. He was chairman, House Neophytes Bloc in which (President) Diosdado Macapagal, (Vice President) Emmanuel Pelaez and (Manila Mayor) Arsenio J. Lacson were members, House Committee on Industry; LP spokesman on economic matters; member, Special Committee on Import and Price Controls and on Reparations; House Committees on Ways and Means, Banks Currency, War Veterans, Civil Service, Corporations and Economic Planning; and the House Electoral Tribunal.


He was the topnotcher in the senatorial elections in 1959. He was Senate minority floor leader, 1960; executive vice president, LP 1954-1961; president, Liberal Party, 1961–1964; Senate President, 1959-1965. During his term as Senate President, former Defense Secretary Eulogio B. Balao was also closely working with Marcos.As a lawyer and a master politician, Marcos led a most interesting and controversial political career both before and after his term as Senate President. He became Senator after he served as member of the House of Representatives for three terms, then later as Minority Floor Leader before gaining the Senate Presidency. He is one of the legislators who had established a record for having introduced a number of significant bills, many of which found their way into the Republic statute books.

Administration and Cabinet:

The cabinet appointments of President Marcos can be divided into three periods: his first two constitutional terms (1965–1973), the New Society appointments from 1973–1978, and the change from departments to ministries from 1978 to the end of his government.

Infrastructure Programs:

“ The Filipino, it seems, has lost his soul, his dignity, and his courage. We have come upon a phase of our history when ideals are only a veneer for greed and power, (in public and private affairs) when devotion to duty and dedication to a public trust are to be weighted at all times against private advantages and personal gain, and when loyalties can be traded. ...Our government is in the iron grip of venality, its treasury is barren, its resources are wasted, its civil service is slothful and indifferent, its armed forces demoralized and its councils sterile. We are in crisis. You know that the government treasury is empty. Only by severe self-denial will there be hope for recovery within the next year.

” To rally the people, he vowed to fulfill the nation’s “mandate for greatness:”

“ This nation can be great again. This I have said over and over. It is my articles of faith, and Divine Providence has willed that you and I can now translate this faith into deeds. ” In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos revealed his plans for economic development and good government. Marcos wanted the immediate construction of roads, bridges and public works, which included 16,000 kilometers of feeder roads, some 30,000 lineal meters of permanent bridges, a generator with an electric power capacity of one million kilowatts (1,000,000 kW), and water services to eight regions and 38 localities.

He also urged the revitalization of the judiciary, the national defense posture and the fight against smuggling, criminality, and graft and corruption in the government.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos with Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird on September 12, 1966. To accomplish his goals “President Marcos mobilized the manpower and resources of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for action to complement civilian agencies in such activities as infrastructure construction; economic planning and program execution; regional and industrial site planning and development; community development and others.” The President, likewise, hired technocrats and highly educated persons to form part of the cabinet and staff. The employment of technocrats in key positions and the mobilization of the AFP for civic actions resulted in the increasing functional integration of civilian and military elites. It was during his first term that the North Diversion Road (now, North Luzon Expressway) was constructed with the help of the AFP engineering construction battalion.

Vietnam War:

To the surprise of many, soon after becoming president, Marcos wanted the Philippines to become involved in the Vietnam War. He asked Congress to approve sending a combat engineer unit to South Vietnam. When the previous Philippine president, Macapagal, suggested in 1964-1965 to send troops it had been Marcos who had led the opposition against this plan on both legal and moral grounds. Despite opposition against the new plan, the Marcos government gained Congressional approval and Philippine troops were sent from the middle of 1966 as the Philippines Civic Action Group (PHILCAG). PHILCAG reached a strength of some 1,600 troops in 1968 and between 1966 and 1970 over 10,000 Filipino soldiers served in South Vietnam, mainly being involved in civilian infrastructure projects.

1969 presidential election:

In 1969 incumbent Marcos won an unprecedented second full term as President. His running mate, incumbent Vice President Fernando Lopez was also elected to a third full term as Vice President of the Philippines. An unprecedented twelve candidates ran for president, however ten of those were nuisance candidates.

Second term (1969-1981)

In 1969, President Marcos was reelected for an unprecedented second term. The fact that Marcos had spent significant amounts on infrastructure projects made him popular with large parts of the population. During his second term he developed a personality cult around himself, requiring businesses and schools all across the Philippines to have his official presidential picture displayed or their facilities shut down. In addition, Marcos's propaganda messages were placed all across the Philippines, many of them taking the place of billboard advertisements. The personality cult lasted until his deposition in 1986.

The second term proved to be a daunting challenge to the president: an economic crisis brought by external and internal forces, a restive and radicalized studentry demanding reforms in the educational system, a rising tide of criminality, subversion by the re-organized Communist movement, and secession in the south.

Economic situation:

Marcos inherited in 1966 an unhealthy economy brought about partly by election-related government overspending. In 1965 this had already led to action from the IMF which reduced the PHP (Philippine Peso) exchange rate against to USD from PHP2 to USD1 to PHP3.95 to USD1. By the time Marcos became president in 1966, the Philippine government was still spending more than it earned. The budget deficit around the middle of 1966 was up to PHP2 million per day. Large loans were taken to cover the deficit and finance the new infrastructure projects started by Marcos. Many of these loans matured by the end of 1969. Large loans were also taken for the election year 1969. By the end of 1969 government borrowing had compared to 1965 almost doubled the government debts forcing the Philippines to seek new loans from the IMF. In February 1970 the PHP exchange rate was left to float and it devaluated at once, dipping to PHP6.4 against USD1 by December 1970. Inflation had already increased sharply from 1966 but the new exchange rates resulted in higher prices for imported products and additional inflation. At the same time the trade balance had after 1965 (when it was USD24 million positive) dramatically changed from positive (USD24 million in 1965) to negative (USD9 million in 1966 and USD224 million in 1967), also partly related with the infrastructure projects started by Marcos. While some of these negative developments were the result of events outside the Philippines, a large part of the blame lies also with Marcos and his government. Soon after the 1973 oil crisis made matters worse for the Philippines, which is largely dependent on imports for its energy needs.

A restive studentry:

The last years of the 1960s and the first two years of the 1970s witnessed the radicalization of the country's student population. Students in various colleges and universities held massive rallies and demonstrations to express their frustrations and resentments. On January 30, 1970, demonstrators numbering about 50,000 students and laborers stormed the Malacañang Palace, burning part of the medical building and crashing through Gate 4 with a fire truck that had been forcibly commandeered by laborers and students. The Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) repulsed them, pushing them toward Mendiola Bridge, where, hours later, after an exchange of gunfire, four persons were killed and scores from both sides injured. Tear gas grenades finally dispersed the crowd. The event is known today as the First Quarter Storm.

Violent students protests did not end. In October 1970, a series of violent events occurred on numerous campuses in the Greater Manila Area, cited as “an explosion of pillboxes in at least two schools.” The University of the Philippines was not spared when 18,000 students boycotted their classes to demand academic and non-academic reforms in the State University, ending in the ‘occupation’ of the office of the president of the university by student leaders. Other schools in which scenes of violent student demonstrations occurred were San Sebastian College, the University of the East, Letran College, Mapua Institute of Technology, the University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University and the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines). Student demonstrators even succeeded in “occupying the office of the Secretary of Justice Vicente Abad Santos for at least seven hours.” The president described the brief “communization” of the University of the Philippines and the violent demonstrations of the left-leaning students as an “act of insurrection."

The re-emergence of the Communist movement:

The re-emergence of the Communist movement and the threats it poised to the Philippine Republic may be best narrated by the Supreme Court in Lansang vs. Garcia on December 11, 1970, excerpts:

In the language of the Report on Central Luzon, submitted, on September 4, 1971, by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee of Seven – copy of which Report was filed in these cases by the petitioners herein – “The years following 1963 saw the successive emergence in the country of several mass organizations, notably the Lapiang Manggagawa (now the Socialist Party of the Philippines) among the workers; the Malayang Samahan ng Magsasaka (MASAKA) among the peasantry; the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) among the youth/students; and the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN) among the intellectuals/professionals. The PKP has exerted all-out effort to infiltrate, influence, and utilize these organizations in promoting its radical brand of nationalism. Meanwhile, the Communist leaders in the Philippines had been split into two (2) groups, one of which- composed mainly of young radicals, constituting the Maoist faction – reorganized the Communist party of the Philippines early in 1969 and established a New People’s Army. This faction adheres to the Maoist concept of the “Protracted People’s War” or “War of National Liberation.” In the year 1969, the NPA had – according to the records of the Department of National Defense – conducted raids, resorted to kidnappings and taken part in other violent incidents numbering 230, in which it inflicted 404 casualties, and in turn, suffered 243 loses.

Martial law and the New Society (1972-1981)

Main article: Martial Law in the Philippines

It is easier perhaps and more comfortable to look back to the solace of a familiar and mediocre past. But the times are too grave and the stakes too high for us to permit the customary concessions to traditional democratic processes.

Amidst the rising wave of lawlessness and the threat of a Communist insurgency, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081. Marcos, ruling by decree, curtailed press freedom and other civil liberties, closed down Congress and media establishments, and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists, including his staunchest critics, senators Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jovito Salonga and Jose Diokno. The declaration of martial law was initially well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing.Crime rates plunged dramatically after a curfew was implemented. Many political opponents were forced to go into exile.

A constitutional convention, which had been called for in 1970 to replace the Commonwealth era 1935 Constitution, continued the work of framing a new constitution after the declaration of martial law. The new constitution went into effect in early 1973, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary and allowing Marcos to stay in power beyond 1973.

Marcos claimed that martial law was the prelude to creating his Bagong Lipunan, a "New Society" based on new social and political values.The economy during the 1970s was robust, with budgetary and trade surpluses. The Gross National Product rose from P55 billion in 1972 to P193 billion in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy's growth. However, Marcos, his cronies and his wife, Imelda, willfully engaged in rampant corruption.

After putting in force amendments to the constitution, legislative action, and securing his sweeping powers and with the Batasan under his control, President Marcos lifted martial law on January 17, 1981. However, the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus continued in the autonomous regions of Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao. The opposition dubbed the lifting of martial law as a mere "face lifting" as a precondition to the visit of Pope John Paul II.

Marcos had a vision of a Bagong Lipunan (New Society) similar to Indonesian president Suharto's "New Order administration". He used the years of martial law to implement this vision.

According to Marcos's book, "Notes on the New Society," it was a movement urging the poor and the privileged to work as one for the common goals of society and to achieve the liberation of the Filipino people through self-realization. Marcos confiscated businesses owned by the oligarchy. More often than not, they were taken over by Marcos's family members and close personal friends, who used them as fronts to launder proceeds from institutionalized graft and corruption in the different national governmental agencies as "crony capitalism," Marcos' friends using them for personal benefit. With genuinely nationalistic motives, crony capitalism was intended to redistribute monopolies traditionally owned by Chinese and Mestizo oligarchs to Filipino businessmen though in practice, it led to graft and corruption via bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement. Marcos also silenced the free press, making the state press the only legal one. He also seized privately owned lands and distributed them to farmers. By waging an ideological war against the oligarchy, Marcos gained the support of the masses though he was to create a new one in its place. Marcos, now free from day-to-day governance which was left mostly to Enrile using his power to settle scores against old rivals, such as the Lopezes, who were always opposed to the Marcos administration. Leading opponents such as Senators Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jose Diokno, Jovito Salonga and many others were imprisoned for months or years. This practice considerably alienated the support of the old social and economic elite and the media, who criticized the Marcos administration endlessly.

The declaration of martial law was initially very well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing though the rest of the world was surprised at how the Filipinos accepted Marcos's self-imposed dictatorship. Soon after Marcos declared martial law, one American official described the Philippines as a country composed "of 40 million cowards and one son of a bitch"; otherwise, he reasoned, they should have risen against the destroyer of their freedom. Crime rates plunged dramatically after dusk curfews were implemented and the country would enjoy economic prosperity throughout the 1970s in the midst of growing dissent to his strong-willed rule toward the end of martial law. Political opponents were given the opportunity of compliance or forced to go into exile. As a result, thousands migrated to other countries, like the U.S. and Canada. Public dissent on the streets was not tolerated and leaders of such protests were promptly arrested, detained, tortured, or never heard from again. Communist leaders, as well as sympathizers, were forced to flee from the cities to the countrysides, where they multiplied. Lim Seng, a feared drug lord, was arrested and executed in Luneta in 1972. As martial law dragged on for the next nine years, human rights violations went unchecked, and graft and corruption by the military and the administration became widespread, as made manifest by the Rolex 12.

Over the years, Marcos's hand was strengthened by the support of the armed forces, whose size he tripled to 230,000 troops, after declaring martial law in 1972. The forces included some first-rate units as well as thousands of unruly and ill equipped personnel of the civilian home defense forces and other paramilitary organizations.

Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Constabulary Fidel Ramos, and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Fabian VerPeople Power Revolution. The Catholic hierarchy and Manila's middle class were crucial to the success of the massive crusade. were the chief administrators of martial law from 1972 to 1981, and the three remained President Marcos's closest advisers until he was ousted in 1986. Enrile and Ramos would later abandon Marcos's 'sinking ship' and seek protection behind the 1986

Prime Minister (1972-1981)

In 1978, the position returned when Ferdinand Marcos became Prime Minister. Based on Article 9 of the 1973 constitution, it had broad executive powers, that would be typical of modern prime ministers in other countries. The position was the official head of government, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. All of the previous powers of the President from the 1935 Constitution were transferred to the newly restored office of Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also acted as head of the National Economic Development Authority. Upon his reelection to President, Marcos was succeded as Prime Minister by Cesar Virata in 1981.

Third term (1981-1986)

We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process, and we will not leave you in isolation.

On June 16, 1981, six months after the lifting of martial law, the first presidential election in twelve years was held. As to be expected, President Marcos ran and won a massive victory over the other candidates. The major opposition parties, the United Nationalists Democratic Organizations (UNIDO), a coalition of opposition parties and LABAN, boycotted the elections.

Aquino's Assassination:

Main article: Assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr.

In 1983, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his return to the Philippines after a long period of exile. This coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and began a succession of events, including pressure from the United States.

Impeachment attempt:

On August 13, 1985, fifty-six Assemblymen signed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Marcos for graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, gross violation of his oath of office and other high crimes.

They cited the San Jose Mercury News exposé of the Marcoses’ multi-million dollar investment and property holdings in the United States. The properties allegedly amassed by the First Family were the Crown Building, Lindenmere Estate, and a number of residential apartments (in New Jersey and New York), a shopping center in New York, mansions (in London, Rome and Honolulu), the Helen Knudsen Estate in Hawaii and three condominiums in San Francisco, California.

The Assemblymen also included in the complaint the misuse and misapplication of funds “for the construction of the Film Center, where X-rated and pornographic films are exhibited, contrary to public morals and Filipino customs and traditions.”

The following day, the Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Good Government dismissed the impeachment complaint for being insufficient in form and substance:

"The resolution is no more than a hodge-podge of unsupported conclusions, distortion of law, exacerbated by ultra partisan considerations. It does not allege ultimate facts constituting an impeachable offense under the Constitution. In sum, the Committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in form and substance to warrant its further consideration. It is not sufficient in form because the verification made by the affiants that the allegations in the resolution “are true and correct of our own knowledge” is transparently false. It taxes the ken of men to believe that the affiants individually could swear to the truth of allegations, relative to the transactions that allegedly transpired in foreign countries given the barrier of geography and the restrictions of their laws. More important, the resolution cannot be sufficient in substance because its careful assay shows that it is a mere charade of conclusions."


See also: People Power Revolution

During these years, Marcos's regime was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement by his relatives and cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino. Critics considered Marcos the quintessential kleptocrat, having looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury. The large personality cult in the Philippines surrounding Marcos also led to disdain.

During his third term, Marcos's health deteriorated rapidly due to kidney ailments, often described as lupus erythematosus. He was absent for weeks at a time for treatment, with no one to assume command. Marcos's regime was sensitive to publicity of his condition; a palace physician who alleged that during one of these periods Marcos had undergone a kidney transplant was shortly found murdered. Many people questioned whether he still had capacity to govern, due to his grave illness and the ballooning political unrest.

With Marcos ailing, his equally powerful wife, Imelda, emerged as the government's main public figure. Marcos dismissed speculations of his ailing health as he used to be an avid golfer and fitness buff who liked showing off his physique. In light of these growing problems, the assassination of Aquino in 1983 would later prove to be the catalyst that led to his overthrow. Many Filipinos came to believe that Marcos, a shrewd political tactician, had no hand in the murder of Aquino but that he was involved in cover-up measures. However, the opposition blamed Marcos directly for the assassination while others blamed the military and his wife, Imelda. The 1985 acquittals of Ver as well as other high-ranking military officers for the crime were widely seen as a miscarriage of justice.

By 1984, his close personal ally, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, started distancing himself from the Marcos regime that he and previous American presidents had strongly supported even after Marcos declared martial law. The United States, which had provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, was crucial in buttressing Marcos's rule over the years. During the Carter administration the relation with the U.S. soured somewhat when President Jimmy Carter targeted the Philippines in his human rights campaign.

In the face of escalating public discontent and under pressure from foreign allies, Marcos called a snap presidential election for 1986, with more than a year left in his term. He selected Arturo Tolentino as his running mate. The opposition united behind Aquino's widow, Corazon, and her running mate, Salvador Laurel.

The "People Power movement" drove Marcos into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as the new president. At the height of the revolution, Enrile revealed that his ambush was faked in order for Marcos to have a pretext for imposing martial law. However, Marcos maintained that he was the duly elected and proclaimed president of the Philippines for a fourth term.

The Philippine government today is still paying interest in public debts incurred during Marcos' administration. It was reported that, when Marcos fled, U.S. Customs agents discovered 24 suitcases of gold bricks and diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags and in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars were allegedly among the personal properties he, his family, his cronies and business partners surreptitiously took with them when the Reagan administration provided them safe passage to Hawaii. When the presidential mansion was seized, it was discovered that Imelda Marcos had over 2700 pairs of shoes in her closet.


Economic performance during the Marcos era was strong at times, but when looked at over his whole regime it was not characterized by strong economic growth. Penn World Tables report real growth in GDP per capita averaged 3.5% from 1951 to 1965, while under the Marcos regime (1966 to 1986) annual average growth was only 1.4%. To help finance a number of economic development projects, such as infrastructure, the Marcos government engaged in borrowing money. Foreign capital was invited to invest in certain industrial projects. They were offered incentives, including tax exemption privileges and the privilege of bringing out their profits in foreign currencies. One of the most important economic programs in the 1980s was the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran (Movement for Livelihood and Progress). This program was started in September 1981. Its aim was to promote the economic development of the barangays by encouraging its residents to engage in their own livelihood projects. The government's efforts resulted in the increase of the nation's economic growth rate to an average of six percent or seven percent from 1970 to 1980. The rate was only less than 5% in the previous decade. The Gross National Product rose from P55 billion ($7.7 billion) in 1972 to P193 billion ($27 billion) in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy's growth. Most of these "tourists" were Filipino balikbayans (returnees) who came under the Ministry of Tourism's Balikbayan Program, launched in 1973.

Economic growth was largely financed, however, by U.S. economic aid and several loans made to the Marcos government as the country's foreign debts increased by over 27 billion USD when Marcos assumed the presidency. A sizable amount of this money went to Marcos family and friends in the form of behest loans. These loans were assumed by the government and still being serviced by taxpayers. Today, more than half of the country's revenues are outlaid for the payments on the interests of loans alone.

Another major source of economic growth was the remittances of overseas Filipino workers. Thousands of Filipino workers, unable to find jobs locally, sought and found employment in the Middle East, Singapore and Hong Kong. These overseas Filipino workers not only helped ease the country's unemployment problem but also earned much-needed foreign exchange for the Philippines.

The Philippine economy suffered a great decline after the Aquino assassination in August 1983. The wave of anti-Marcos demonstrations in the country that followed scared off tourists. The political troubles also hindered the entry of foreign investments, and foreign banks stopped granting loans to the Philippine government.

In an attempt to launch a national economic recovery program, Marcos negotiated with foreign creditors including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for a restructuring of the country's foreign debts – to give the Philippines more time to pay the loans. Marcos ordered a cut in government expenditures and used a portion of the savings to finance the Sariling Sikap (Self-Reliance), a livelihood program he established in 1984.

However, the economy experienced negative economic growth from the beginning of 1984 and continued to decline despite the government's recovery efforts. The recovery program's failure was caused by civil unrest, rampant graft and corruption within the government, and Marcos's lack of credibility. Marcos himself diverted large sums of government money to his party's campaign funds. The unemployment rate ballooned from 6.30% in 1972 to 12.55% in 1985.


At 3:00 p.m., Monday, (EST) Marcos talked to United States Senator Paul Laxalt,[38] asking for advice from the White House. Laxalt advised him to "cut and cut cleanly", to which Marcos expressed his disappointment after a short pause. In the afternoon, Marcos talked to Enrile, asking for safe passage for him and his family including his close allies like General Ver. Finally, at 9:00 p.m., the Marcos family was transported by four Sikorsky HH-3E helicopters[39] to Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga, about 83 kilometers north of Manila, before boarding US Air Force C-130 planes bound for Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, and finally to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where Marcos arrived on February 26. Marcos died in Honolulu on September 28, 1989, of kidney, heart and lung ailments. He was interred in a private mausoleum at Byodo-In Temple on the island of Oahu, visited daily by the Marcos family, political allies and friends. The late strongman's remains are currently interred inside a refrigerated crypt in Ilocos Norte, where his son, Ferdinand, Jr., and eldest daughter, Imee have since become the local governor and representative, respectively. A Mount Rushmore-esque bust of Ferdinand Marcos, commissioned by Tourism Minister Jose Aspiras, was earlier carved into a hillside in Benguet. It was subsequently destroyed by suspects that include left-wing activists, members of a local tribe who have been displaced by its construction, and looters hunting for the Marcos' legendary hidden treasure. Imelda Marcos was acquitted of embezzlement by a U.S. court in 1990 but was still facing a few hundred additional corruption charges in Philippine courts in 2006.

In 1995 some 10,000 Filipinos won a U.S. class-action lawsuit filed against the Marcos estate. The charges were filed by victims or their surviving relatives for torture, execution and disappearances.

On June 12, 2008, the US Supreme Court (in a 7-2 ruling penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy in “Republic of the Philippines v. Mariano Pimentel”) held that: “The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded with instructions to order the District Court to dismiss the interpleader action.” The court dismissed the interpleader lawsuit filed to determine the rights of 9,500 Filipino human rights victims (1972–1986) to recover $35 million, part of a $2 billion judgment in U.S. courts against the Marcos estate, because the Philippines is an indispensable party, protected by sovereign immunity. It claimed ownership of the funds transferred by Marcos in 1972 to Arelma S.A., which invested the money with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., in New York.

Human rights groups place the number of victims of extrajudicial killings under martial law at 1500 and Karapatan, a local human rights group's records show 759 involuntarily disappeared (their bodies never found). Military historian Alfred McCoy in his book "Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy" and in his speech "Dark Legacy" cites 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerated during the Marcos years. The newspaper Bulatlat (lit. "to open carelessly") places the number of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention at 120,000.


Marcos' practice of using the politics of patronage in his desire to be the ninong or godfather of not just the people but the judiciary, legislative and administrative branches of the government ensured his downfall, no matter how Marcos justified it according to his own philosophy of the "politics of achievement." This practice entailed bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement to gain the support of the aforementioned sectors. The 14 years of his dictatorship, according to critics, have warped the legislature, judiciary and the military.

Another allegation was that his family and cronies looted so much wealth from the country that to this day investigators have difficulty determining precisely how many billions of dollars have been salted away. The Swiss government has also returned 684 million USD in allegedly ill-gotten Marcos wealth.

According to staunch Marcos critic Jovito Salonga, monopolies in several vital industries have been created and placed under the control of Marcos cronies, such as coconut (under Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile), tobacco (under Lucio Tan), banana (under Antonio Floirendo), sugar (under Roberto Benedicto) and manufacturing (under Herminio Disini and Ricardo Silverio). The Marcos and Romualdez families became owners, directly or indirectly, of the nation's largest corporations, such as the Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDC) Present name Phillipine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), the Philippine Airlines (PAL), Meralco (a national electric company), Fortune Tobacco, the San Miguel Corporation (Asia's largest beer and bottling company), numerous newspapers, radio and TV broadcasting companies (such as ABS-CBN), several banks, and real estate properties in New York, California and Hawaii. The Aquino government also accused them of skimming off foreign aid and international assistance.

However, he put these talents to work by building a regime that he apparently intended to perpetuate as a dynasty. A former aide of Marcos said that "nobody will ever know what a remarkable president he could have made. That's the saddest part." Among the many documents he left behind in the palace, after he fled in 1986, was one appointing his wife as his successor.

Opponents state that the evidence suggests that he used the communist threat as a pretext for seizing power. However, the communist insurgency was at its peak during the late 1960s to early 1970s when it was found out that the People's Republic of China was shipping arms to support the communist cause in the Philippines after the interception of a vessel containing loads of firearms. After he was overthrown, former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile stated that certain incidents had been contrived to justify the imposition of martial law, such as Enrile's ambush.

His most ardent supporters claim Marcos had genuine concern for reforming the society as evidenced by his actions during the period, up until his cronies, whom he entirely trusted, had firmly entrenched themselves in the government. By then, they say he was too ill and too dependent on them to act. The same has been said about his relationship with his wife Imelda, who became the government's main public figure in light of his illness, by then wielding perhaps more power than Marcos himself.

Many laws written by Marcos are still in force and in effect. Out of thousands of proclamations, decrees and executive orders, only a few were repealed, revoked, modified or amended. Few credit Marcos for promoting Filipino culture and nationalism. His 21 years in power with the help of U.S. massive economic aid and foreign loans enabled Marcos to build more schools, hospitals and infrastructure than any of his predecessors combined. Due to his iron rule, he was able to impose order and reduce crime by strict implementation of the law. The relative economic success that the Philippines enjoyed during the initial part of his presidency is hard to dispel. Many of Marcos's accomplishments were overlooked after the so-called "People Power Revolution", but the Marcos era definitely had accomplishments in its own right.

Writer Manuel L. Quezon III states that "in the end, as Marcos’s health and grip on power weakened, he came to validate what is said to be the fundamental weakness of all strong man regimes: as the saying goes, nothing grows under the shade of a great tree. Marcos could not — would not — provide for a successor; and it was on the fundamental question of what should come after Marcos that his regime began to crumble, and fell... that he himself, with his virtues (and he had many: love of country, love of learning, discipline, loyalty) and his defects (confusing form with substance, ignoring how the means power is acquired is as important as how you use it, tolerance of his supporters’ mistakes, and his using armed force to compensate for some political weaknesses) are as much about our society’s strengths and weaknesses, as they were about his own. "

According to Transparency International, Marcos is the first Philippine Head of State and the second most corrupt head of government ever, after Suharto, with Estrada as the tenth and second Philippine Head of State in terms of corruption. Even so, according to a recent survey, some Filipinos prefer Marcos's rule due to the shape of the country in administrations succeeding his.

Personal life:

He was married to Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, with four children: Maria Imelda "Imee" Marcos, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., Irene Marcos, and Aimee Marcos, who was adopted.


  • Today's Revolution: Democracy (1971)
  • Notes on the New Society of the Philippines II (1976)
  • An Ideology for Filipinos (1980)
  • Marcos' Notes for the Cancun Summit, 1981 (1981)
  • Progress and Martial Law (1981)
  • The New Philippine Republic: A Third World Approach to Democracy (1982)
  • Toward a New Partnership: The Filipino Ideology (1983)

Further reading:

  • Salonga, Jovito (2001). Presidential Plunder: The Quest for Marcos Ill-gotten Wealth. Regina Pub. Co., Manila
  • Bonner, Raymond (1987). Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. Times Books, New York ISBN 978-0-8129-1326-2
  • Seagrave, Sterling (1988): The Marcos Dynasty, Harper Collins
  • Aquino, Belinda, editor (1982). Cronies and Enemies: the Current Philippine Scene. University of Hawaii
  • Library of Congress Country Studies: Philippines. The Inheritance from Marcos

External links: