Ferdinand E. Marcos

Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos (September 11, 1917 – September 28, 1989) was the tenth president of the Philippines, serving from 1965 to 1986. In 1972, he declared martial law, which allowed him to stay in power until lifting it in 1981. He was elected the same year to another full term, which was marred by personal health issues, government mismanagement, political repression, human rights violations, and rampant graft and corruption . In 1986, he was re-elected for the fourth time, in a disputed snap election. As a result, that same year, he was removed from office peacefully by the "People Power" EDSA Revolution.

He has the distinction of being the last Philippine Senate President to be elected to the presidency.

Early life

In 1917, Ferdinand Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte to Mariano Marcos, a lawyer who was an assemblyman for Ilocos Norte, and Josefa Quetulio Edralín, a teacher. He was the second of four children. He was of mixed Filipino (Ilocano), Chinese and Japanese ancestry. He was a product of public schools, having started his primary education in Sarrat Central School, transferred to Shamrock Elementary School (Laoag), and finally completing his primary education in 1929 at the Ermita Elementary School (Manila) when his father was elected as an Assemblyman in the Philippine Congress.

He served as 3rd lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary (national police) Reserve in 1937. The same year, when he was still a law student at the University of the Philippines, Marcos was indicted for the assassination of Congressman Julio Nalundasan, one of his father's political rivals who was running against him in the upcoming election. Marcos was convicted in November 1939. He was offered a pardon by President Manuel Quezon, but he turned it down and voluntarily returned to the Laoag Provincial Jail, where he spent time preparing his defense while studying to take the Bar examination.

He was admitted to the Bar and granted permission to appeal his own case which he argued convincingly before the Philippine Supreme Court and was acquitted the following year by then-Associate Justice Jose P. Laurel. At the University of the Philippines, Marcos was a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity.

In 1954, after a whirlwind 11 day romance, he married beauty queen Imelda Romualdez who later helped him in his successful campaigns for the presidency. They had 4 children: Imee Marcos (Ilocos Norte congresswoman), Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. (Ilocos Norte governor), Irene Marcos (socialite) and adopted daughter, Aimee Marcos (entrepreneur and musician).

In 2004, a Sydney newspaper alleged Marcos and a swimwear model had a daughter born in 1971 . He is reputed to have 17 illegitimate children.

Military career

During World War II, Marcos served in the Philippine Armed Forces as the combat intelligence officer of the 21st Infantry Division. According to his biographer, in January 1942, Lieutenant Marcos, accompanied by three 18 year old recruits, penetrated behind the Japanese lines, killed more than 50 of the enemy and destroyed the deadly mortars that pinned down General Mateo Capinpin’s 21st Division. He claimed he was later captured and tortured, yet escaped to rally elements of various divisions in a six-day running battle on the banks of two Bataan rivers that threw the enemy back. For this, he was promoted to the rank of captain and recommended for the Medal of Honor. Captured by the Japanese, he survived the Bataan Death March towards Central Luzon and then escaped.

He was awarded with medals as an officer in the Philippines, though his biography, written by Hartzell Spence, greatly exaggerated the truth. Marcos' subsequent claims of being an important leader in the Filipino guerrilla resistance movement were a central factor in his later political success, but U.S. government archives later revealed that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during the war. and

Early political career

From 1946 to 1947, Marcos was a technical assistant to President Manuel Roxas. In the 1949, national elections, Marcos famously declared "Elect me as your congressman today, and I promise an Ilocano president in twenty years." He served for three consecutive terms in the House of Representatives (1949-59) and a term in the Senate (1959-65). He also became the president of the Senate from 1962 to 1965.

Marcos spent most of his early career as a member of the Liberal Party. He sought the Liberal nomination for president in 1965, but the party nominated incumbent Diosdado Macapagal instead. Marcos switched allegiance, joined the Nacionalista Party and gained their nomination. He and his running mate, Fernando Lopez, defeated Macapagal and Gerardo Roxas in a landslide victory.


Marcos' first term in office showed a lot of promise, building on the relatively robust economy by developing the country's infrastructure and intensifying tax collection. The unemployment rate shrank from 7.20% in 1966 to just 5.20% in 1971. He liberalized trade with the free world, hastening the industrialization of the Philippines. His claim for being responsible for the country's self-sufficiency in rice is highly disputed; however, there is little doubt that rice production was at its peak during his administration. Marcos also tried to strengthen the foreign relations of the Philippines. He hosted a seven-nation summit conference on the crisis in South Vietnam in October 1966. In support for the U.S. military efforts in South Vietnam, he agreed to send Filipino troops to that war.

Throughout his 21-year tenure, Marcos maintained a close alliance with the United States and was a close friend of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. He launched major military campaigns against Communist New People's Army and Moro insurgents. He was an outspoken critic of communism. He sent forces to Vietnam to help the Americans, as well as medical teams to do humanitarian work. He and Lopez were re-elected in 1969.

In 1971, Marcos called for a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of revising the 1935 Constitution. The Convention was composed of 321 elected delegates headed by former Presidents Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal. However, the Convention's image was tarnished by scandals which included the bribing of some delegates to "vote" against a proposal to prohibit Marcos from staying in power under a new constitution. Marcos himself advocated switching to a parliamentary system, which would allow him to remain in power as prime minister.

Marcos' second term was marked by increasing civil strife known as the "First Quarter Storm." After a series of bombings in Manila which he alleged to have been carried out by the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the interception of a ship containing large amounts of firearms from the People's Republic of China to be used by the New People's Army and an ambush attempt on Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos warned of an imminent Communist takeover.

On September 21, 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081, he declared martial law over the entire country. This proclamation effectively suspended the 1935 Constitution, allowing Marcos to remain in power for the duration of martial law. He soon became a virtual dictator. Defending his right to rule by decree, if he chose, he asserted that otherwise "you will have Communists going back and forth, causing the dastardly ruin of our country, the killing of people and the rape of women."

In 1973, Marcos proclaimed a new constitution that instituted a parliamentary system. It allowed him to serve as both president and prime minister for the duration of martial law. In 1976, Marcos amended the constitution further, allowing himself to hold conccurent posts until the election of an interim National Assembly.

Cabinet and Judicial Appointments 1965-73

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.

During these years, his regime was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement by his relatives and cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr.. Marcos can be considered the quintessential kleptocrat, having looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury. Much of the lost sum has yet to be accounted for. He was also a notorious nepotist, appointing family members and close friends to high positions in his cabinet. This practice led to even more widespread mishandling of government, especially during the 1980s when Marcos was mortally ill with lupus and was in and out of office. Perhaps the most prominent example is the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a multi-billion dollar project that turned out to be a white elephant which allegedly provided huge kickbacks to Marcos and his businessman-friend, Herminio Disini, who spearheaded the project. The reactor, which turned out to be based on old, costly designs and built on an earthquake fault, has still to produce a single watt of electricity. The Philippine government today is still paying interests on more than US$28 billion public debts incurred during his 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; in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars are allegedly among the personal properties he, his family, his cronies and business partners had surreptitiously taken with them when the Reagan administration provided them safe passage to Hawaii .

During his third term, Marcos's health deteriorated rapidly due to kidney ailments. He was absent for weeks at a time for treatment, with no one to assume command. 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--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 Gen. Fabian 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' 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 1981 Vice President George Bush seemed to signal a different approach when in his visit to Manila he told Marcos, "We love your adherence to democratic principles and to democratic processes."

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 final tally of the National Movement for Free Elections, an accredited poll watcher, showed Aquino winning by almost 800,000 votes. However, the government tally showed Marcos winning by almost 1.6 million votes. This appearance of blatant fraud by Marcos led the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the United States Senate to condemn the elections. Both Marcos and Aquino traded accusations of vote-rigging. Popular sentiment in Metro Manila sided with Aquino, leading to a massive, multisectoral congregation of protesters, and the gradual defection of the military to Aquino led by Marcos' cronies, Enrile and Ramos. It must be noted that prior to his defection, Enrile's arrest warrant, having been charged for graft and corruption, was about to be served. This so-called "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 Marcos family and their associates went into exile in Hawaii and were later indicted for embezzlement in the United States. 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 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 is still facing a few hundred additional graft 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. 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). While military historian Alfred McCoy in his book "Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy" and in his speech "Dark Legacy" cite 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerated during the Marcos years. . The newspaper "Bulatlat" place the number of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention at 120,000 .


p>His practice of using the politics of patronage in his desire to be the "amo" or godfather of not just the people, but the judiciary, legislature 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 legislative, 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 US$684 million in allegedly ill-gotten Marcos wealth and and .

According to staunch Marcos critic Jovito Salonga, author of the book "Presidential Plunder: the Quest for the Marcos Ill-Gotten Wealth," 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), manufacturing (under Herminio Disini and Ricardo Silverio), and sugar (under Roberto Benedicto). The Marcos and Romualdez families became owners, directly or indirectly, of the nation's largest corporations, such as the Philippine Long Distance Company (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, several banks, real estate properties in New York, California and Hawaii. It was no exaggeration when Imelda Marcos declared in an interview, that her family "own practically everything in the Philippines." . The Aquino government also accused them of skimming off foreign aid and international assistance. This is a clear example of the aforementioned "crony capitalism" that Marcos introduced during the New Society.

His apologists claim Marcos was a good president gone bad and that he was a man of rare gifts--a brilliant lawyer, a shrewd politician and keen legal analyst with a ruthless streak and a flair for leadership. Having been in power for more than 20 years, Marcos also had the very rare opportunity to lead the Philippines toward prosperity, with massive infrastructure he put in place as well as an economy on the rise.

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 1960's to early 1970's 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 and , such as Enrile's ambush.

The Martial Law dictatorship may have helped boost the communist insurgency's strength and numbers, but not to the point that could have led to the overthrow of the elected government. Marcos' regime was crucial in the United States' fight against communism and its influences, with Marcos himself being a staunch anti-communist. Marcos however had an ironically mild streak to his "strongman" image, and as much as possible avoided bloodshed and confrontation.

His most ardent supporters claim Marcos was serious about Martial Law and 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 do something about it. 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.

It is important to note that 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' accomplishments were overlooked after the so-called "People Power" EDSA Revolution, but the Marcos era definitely had its own accomplishments in its own right.

A journalist said that "The Marcoses were the best of us, and they were the worst of us. That's why we say we hate them so much."

According to Transparency International, Marcos is the second most corrupt head of government ever, after Suharto. . Even so, according to a recent survey, some Filipinos prefer Marcos' rule due to the shape of the country in administrations succeeding his. Many admire his autocratic, strong-arm rule, saying that his style of leadership is sorely missed and needed in the post-EDSA Philippines where too much democracy has ruined the body politic, with fractious standoffs in Congress, endless so-called "People Power" demonstrations, deadlocks in the Senate and movie actors as well as traditional politicians being elected into public office. A few are nostalgic for the Marcos era, where the government was well-organized and laws were strictly followed by civilians, leading to a relatively disciplined populace.

On the other hand, many despise his regime, his silencing the free press, his curtailing of civil liberties such as the right to peaceably assemble, his dictatorial control, the imprisonment, torture, murder and disappearance of thousands of his oppositionists, and his supposed shameless plunder of the nation's treasury. There is no middle ground. It is quite evident that the EDSA Revolution left the Philippine society polarized, perhaps beyond repair. Nostalgia remains high in parts of the populace for the Marcos era due to the downward spiral the Philippines fell into after his departure. It can be said that his public image has been significantly rehabilitated after worsening political and economic problems that have hounded his successors. The irony is that these economic troubles are largely due to the country's massive debts incurred during his administration. The Marcos Era's legacy, polarizing as it is, remains deeply embedded in the Philippines today.