Ferdinand Marcos

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Former President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (11 September 1917 – 28 September 1989) was a politician who served as the 10th president of the Republic of the Philippines, holding the position for 21 years (from 1965 to 1986), the longest period a Philippine president stayed in office. He was the first and only Philippine president to be reelected and the last Philippine Senate president to be elected to the presidency. He served as president from 1965 to 1969 during his first term and was reelected in 1969. Three years later, he declared martial law. He stayed in office from then until 1981—the same year he lifted martial law. He was again reelected for a term of six years but served only from 1981 to 1986 due to a snap presidential election. He was proclaimed winner of the election by the National Assembly in 1986, but was deposed from office through a peaceful people's revolt, now popularly called the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Early Life and Education

Ferdinand Marcos was born on 11 September 1917 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, the eldest among the three children of Mariano Marcos, a lawyer and assemblyman of Ilocos Norte, and Josefa Quetulio Edralin, a teacher. Named by his parents after King Ferdinand of Spain, he was baptized as an Aglipayan by Bishop Gregorio Aglipay himself. He was of mixed Ilocano, Chinese, and Japanese ancestry. He started his primary education in Sarrat Central School, transferred to Shamrock Elementary School in Laoag, and completed his primary education in 1929 at the Ermita Elementary School in Manila when his father was elected as an assemblyman in the Philippine Congress. He attended the University of the Philippines High School from 1929 to 1933.

From 1933 to 1936, he was enrolled in a liberal arts course at the University of the Philippines. During his college years, Marcos was a champion debater, boxer, swimmer, wrestler and the team captain of the University Rifle and Pistol Team (UP-RPT). Having been a battalion commander with the rank of cadet major, he was commissioned as third lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary Reserve in 1937.

Law Student

In 1937, Marcos took up law at the University of the Philippines, where he excelled in academics, particularly in debate and oratory. He then joined the Upsilon Sigma Phi, one of the established fraternities in the university. While a law student, he was arrested and tried for the murder in 1933 of Julio Nalundasan, a political opponent of his politician father. In November 1939, the same year he received his degree in law, Judge Roman Cruz of Provincial Court of First Instance found Marcos guilty as charged and sentenced to imprisonment. He was offered a pardon by President Manuel Quezon, but turned it down. After posting bail, he took the bar exam and emerged as the topnotcher, obtaining one of the highest scores in history. He then appealed his own case and was allowed to defend himself before the Supreme Court of the Philippines under Chief Justice Jose P. Laurel. He won an acquittal a year later and became a trial lawyer in Manila.

Military Career

During World War II, Marcos was an officer with the Philippine Armed Forces, serving as a combat intelligence officer of the 21st Infantry Division and fought in Bataan from 1941 to 1942. In his biography written by Hartzell Spence, Marcos is said to have played heroic roles in different battlefields during the war, including having been captured and tortured by the Japanese when they lost some battles in Bataan. He also claimed to have been one of the guerrilla leaders in Luzon and that his greatest exploit was the Battle of Bessang Pass. His consequent claims of being an important figure in the guerrilla movement in the war became a vital factor in his political career. However, the United States government’s archives later revealed that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during the war.

Legislative Career

At the end of World War II, Marcos became a member of the Philippine Veterans' Commission, and later on became a technical assistant to Manuel Roxas, the first president of the independent Philippine republic. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959, serving as minority floor leader at some point and acting as temporary president of the Liberal Party in 1957. He was 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. His popularity surged more when in 1954 he married Imelda Romualdez, a former beauty queen. In 1959, he ran for a seat in the Senate and obtained the highest number of votes, the first minority party candidate to top a senatorial election. He was a member of the Senate from 1959 to 1965, serving as its president from 1963 to 1965.


A veteran member of the Liberal Party founded by Manuel Roxas, Marcos sought the party nomination for president in 1961 but gave way to Diosdado Macapagal as Liberal Party presidential candidate on the agreement that Macapagal would support his candidacy in 1965. He served as Macapagal's campaign manager and was elected president of the Liberal Party. In April 1964, he broke with the Liberal Party and turned to Nacionalista by Jose B. Laurel Jr. after incumbent Philippine president and party chairman Macapagal refused to honor their agreement and decided to run for reelection. He then ran as the Nationalist Party candidate and won the presidency in 1965. In 1969 he was reelected, the first Philippine president to serve a second term. Concentrating on agriculture, industry, and education, the country's economy grew during his first term. However, his administration was troubled by increasing student demonstrations and violent urban-guerrilla activities perpetrated by the growing communist movement.

First Term (1966-1969)

In November 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected 10th president of the Republic of the Philippines. During his inauguration on 30 December 1965, he vowed to fulfill the nation's "mandate for greatness" and to be a "leader of the people." In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in January 1966, he revealed his plans for economic development and good government. He 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 1 million kilowatts (1,000,000 kW), and water services to eight regions and 38 localities.

To fulfill his inaugural vow to "make this nation great again," he mobilized the manpower and resources of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to complement civilian agencies in activities such as infrastructure construction, economic planning and program execution, regional and industrial site planning and development, and barrio programs for community development. He hired technocrats and highly educated persons to form part of his cabinet and staff. His cabinet included: Carlos P. Romulo (education); Rafael Salas, executive secretary; Jose Yulo (justice); Marcelo Balatbat (commerce); Cesar Virata (finance); Jose Aspiras, press secretary; Paulino Garcia (health); Narciso Ramos (foreign affairs); Claudio Teehankee, undersecretary of justice; Onofre Corpuz , undersecretary (later, secretary) of education; Juan Ponce Enrile, undersecretary of finance (later secretary of national defense); Fernando Campos, undersecretary of commerce; Romeo Edu, commissioner on land transportation; Teotino Aguilar, undersecretary of general services; Benjamin del Rosario, general manager of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS); Blas Ople, social security commissioner (later, secretary of labor and employment); Col. Salvador Villa, chairman of PNR; former press secretary Jose Nabu, presidential assistant on housing; and Jose Zulueta, presidential consultant on local government. He also formed a high-level economic and development council.

His first term in office showed a lot of promise, building on the relatively robust economy by developing the country's infrastructure, education, and agriculture. It was during his first term that rice production was at its peak. Greater production of rice occurred by promoting the cultivation of IR-8 hybrid rice. In 1968 the Philippines became self-sufficient in rice, the first time in history since the American period. In addition, the Philippines exported rice worth US$7 million. In foreign relations, he hosted the Manila Summit Conference with the heads of member nations of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Marcos initiated, together with the heads of State in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore), the formation of a regional organization to combat the communist threat in the region – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He secured increased economic and financial assistance from the United States, shortened the military bases agreement from 99 years to 25 years, and hosted a seven-nation summit conference on the crisis in South Vietnam. In October 1966, the Philippines hosted the summit of seven heads of state (United States, South Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines) to discuss the worsening problem in Vietnam and the containment of communism in the region. It was also during his first term that the North Diversion Road was constructed with the help of the AFP engineering construction battalion. The North Diversion Road, now known as North Luzon Expressway, initially went from Balintawak to Tabang, Guiguinto, Bulacan.

Second Term (1969-1981)

In 1969, Marcos was reelected president of the Philippines for another four-year term by defeating Sergio Osmeña Jr., making him the only Philippine president to be reelected in Philippine history. The second term proved to be an overwhelming challenge to the reelected president, with an economic crisis brought by external and internal forces. In 1969, the Philippines experienced a higher inflation rate and devaluation of the Philippine peso. Furthermore, the oil-producing Arab countries decided to cut back on oil production, in response to Western military aid to Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict, resulting in higher fuel prices worldwide. In addition, the frequent visits of natural calamities brought havoc to infrastructures and agricultural crops and livestock, and the combined external and internal economic forces led to uncontrolled increase in the prices of prime commodities.

On January 30, 1970, students and laborers numbering about 50,000 stormed the Malacañang Palace, and crashed a fire truck through Gate 4, which had been forcibly commandeered by the demonstrators. The Metropolitan Command (MetroCom) of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) pushed them back to Mendiola Bridge. The event was dubbed the First Quarter Storm. In October 1970, a series of turbulent events occurred on numerous campuses in the Greater Manila Area. 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, resulting in the "occupation" of the office of the president of the university by student leaders. Other schools which were scenes of  student demonstrations were Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines), San Sebastian College, University of the East, Letran College, Mapua Institute of Technology, University of Santo Tomas and FEATI University. 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 demonstrations of the Left-leaning students as an "act of insurrection." There were incidents of killings, bombings, breakdown of law and order, and warlordism in different parts of the country. In 1969, the New People's Army (NPA) had conducted raids, resorted to kidnappings and taken part in other violent incidents numbering 230, in which it caused 404 casualties, and in turn, suffered 243 losses. In 1970, its record of violent incidents was about the same, but the NPA casualties more than doubled. In the early ‘70s, violent land disputes and other social tensions eventually gave way to the formation of vigilante groups that acted like private armies of politicians or rich land owners. The communal violence in Mindanao resulted in the displacement of 100,000 refugees, burning of hundreds of homes, and deaths of hundreds of Christians and Muslims in Cotabato and Lanao. The violence garnered international attention and sympathy from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) as well as other Muslim countries like Libya—which provided military training and logistics to Moro rebels. Muslim secessionism was one of the reasons given for declaring martial law.

On August 21, 1971, following the bombing of the Liberal Party proclamation rally in Plaza Miranda, Marcos issued Proclamation No.889 suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the basis for the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 (Lansang vs. Garcia, 42 SCRA 449. The ponencia was penned by Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion and concurred by Justices J.B.L. Reyes, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Teehankee, Barredo, Villamor and Makasiar. Justices Castro and Barredo concurred fully in a separate opinion). On January 7, 1972, he restored the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the country. However, the country still faced continuous activities to overthrow the government. Bombings linked to the communists intensified throughout the country. In January 1970, a bomb exploded at the Joint US Military Advisory Group Headquarters in Quezon City, and in December of that year, two Catholic schools and two government buildings in Calbayog City were blasted with dynamites. In 1971, oil firms in Manila were bombed resulting in deaths and injuries. In 1972, a grenade was hurled at the ABS-CBN tower in January; the United States Embassy was bombed in February; pillbox explosives were hurled at the gate of the Malacañang Palace and an explosion occurred in the Greater Manila Terminal Food Market in March; the US Embassy was again bombed in April; a time bomb exploded in the Court of Industrial Relations in June; and the Philamlife Building in Ermita, Manila was bombed in July. In September, bombs exploded on Carriedo Street in Quiapo, the Manila City Hall, and at the Quezon City Hall, which disrupted the plenary session of the Constitutional Convention and proceedings in a subversive case before the Court of First Instance.

Cabinet and Judicial Appointments (1965-1973)

The cabinet appointments of 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.

Martial Law and the New Society

President Marcos had a vision of a "Bagong Lipunan” (New Society)—similar to the "New Order" that was imposed in Indonesia under Indonesian President Suharto. Marcos used the martial law years to implement this vision.

According to his 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, his 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. In the end, some of Marcos's cronies used them as cash cows. "Crony capitalism" was the term used to describe this phenomenon. It led to graft and corruption via bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement. By waging an ideological war against the oligarchy, Marcos gained the support of the masses. Marcos also silenced the free press, making the state press the only legal one. Marcos, now free from day-to-day governance (which was left mostly to Enrile), also used his power to settle old scores against old rivals, such as the Lopezes, who were always opposed to the Marcos administration. Leading oppositionists 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.

The declaration of martial law was initially very well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing. The rest of the world was surprised at how the Filipinos accepted Marcos’s dictatorship. Soon after Marcos declared martial law, one high-ranking 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. Petty crime rates plunged after dusk curfews were implemented. Political opponents were 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 countryside, 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 Ver were the chief administrators of martial law from 1972 to 1981, and the three remained Marcos's closest advisors until he was ousted in 1986. Enrile and Ramos would later abandon Marcos's sinking ship and sought protection behind the 1986 People Power revolution. The Catholic hierarchy and Manila's middle class were crucial to the success of the massive crusade.

Return of Formal Elections and the End of Martial Law

On April 7, 1978, the first formal election (instead of referenda) in the Philippines since martial law was called by Marcos for the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly). Marcos's party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement), headed by First Lady Imelda Marcos, won 151 of the 161 seats available, as reported by the government voting commission. However, these results were condemned as fraudulent by the opposition. None of the members of Ninoy Aquino's LABAN party were elected. Only two regional opposition political parties gained elective seats in the 1978 election: the Pusyon Bisaya of Francisco Tatad, which gained 13 elective seats, and the Mindanao Alliance of Homobono Adaza, Reuben Canoy and Aquilino Pimentel Jr., which gained only one seat. As a result, LABAN denounced the administration, alleging massive cheating.

LABAN boycotted the 1980 local elections and it, along with other political parties, would also boycott the 1981 legislative elections. Marcos himself served two concurrent posts, as both president and interim prime minister, from this period until the lifting of martial law in 1981.

On January 17, 1981, martial law was formally lifted by virtue of Proclamation No. 2045, as a precondition to the visit of Pope John Paul II. Although this paved the way for a more open democracy, the government retained much of its power for arrest and detention. He stepped down as prime minister and ran for election as the first president of the Fourth Republic of the Philippines. The constitution had been significantly amended to provide for a more or less presidential system once again.

None of the major opposition parties fielded a candidate, including Ninoy Aquino's LABAN, the largest opposition party during that time. Only the Nacionalista Party, Marcos's former party, fielded a candidate—retired general Alejo Santos--and only then under duress. Marcos handily won 91.4% of the vote while Santos only got 8.6%. Marcos won by a margin of over 16 million votes, the largest to date in a Philippine presidential election. Finance Minister Cesar Virata was elected as prime minister by the Batasang Pambansa.


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 percent from 1951 to 1965, while under the Marcos regime (1965 to 1986), annual average growth was only 1.4 percent. 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 barangay 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 6 to 7 percent from 1970 to 1980. The rate was only less than 5 percent in the previous decade. The gross national product rose from P55 billion in 1972 to P193 billion in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy's growth. Most of these "tourists" were Filipino balikbayans (returnees) who came home 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 by the Marcos government. The country's foreign debts were less than US$1billion when Marcos assumed the presidency in 1965, and more than US$28billion when he left office in 1986. A sizable amount of these monies went to the Marcos family and friends in the form of behest loans. These loans were assumed by the government and still being serviced by taxpayers.

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 assassination of opposition figure Benigno Aquino 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 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 Sariling Sikap (Self-Reliance), a livelihood program he established in 1984.

However, the economy experienced negative economic growth beginning in 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 by 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 percent in 1972 to 12.55 percent in 1985.


During these years, the Marcos regime was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement by Marcos and his relatives and cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. Critics considered Marcos as 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 and 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, which 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 Jimmy 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 (NAMFREL), 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 (CBCP) 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's 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. 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. Marcos's wife was found to have over 2500 pairs of shoes in her closet.

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 were then 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 was 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 local human rights group Karapatan’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" cite 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerated during the Marcos years.


Marcos's official Malacañang Palace portrait, which he had selected for himself, was lost during the People Power Revolution. Prior to Marcos, Philippine presidents had followed the path of "traditional politics" by using their position to help along friends and allies before stepping down for the next "player." Marcos essentially destroyed this setup through military rule, which allowed him to rewrite the rules of the game so they favored the Marcoses and their allies.

Marcos practiced the politics of patronage in his desire to be the "amo" or godfather of not just the people, but also the judiciary, legislature and administrative branches of the government. This practice entailed bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement to gain the support of the aforementioned sectors. His dictatorship, according to historians, warped the legislative, judiciary, and the military.

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 returned US$684 million of ill-gotten Marcos wealth.

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 were 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, and real estate properties in New York, California and Hawaii. It was no exaggeration when Imelda Marcos declared in an interview that she and 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 era.

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. Being 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, "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 Marcos used the communist threat as a pretext for seizing power. 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.

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's regime was crucial in the United States' fight against communism and its influences, with Marcos himself being a staunch anti-communist.

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.

Many laws passed during the Marcos presidency 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. The relative economic success that the Philippines enjoyed during the initial part of his presidency is hard to dismiss.

According to Transparency International, Marcos is the second most corrupt head of government ever, after Suharto. Even so, according to a survey, some Filipinos prefer Marcos's rule due to the shape of the country in administrations succeeding his. A few are nostalgic for the Marcos era. On the other hand, many despise his regime, his silencing of 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 blatant and unbridled plunder of the nation's treasury. It is quite evident that the EDSA Revolution left the Philippine society polarized. Nostalgia remains high in parts of the populace for the Marcos era due to the continuing corruption in government. 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.

Burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani

In November 2016, a few months into the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos’s remains were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani following what was called a "surprise" decision by the Supreme Court that gave it the go signal. On November 18, 2016, Marcos's remains were stealthily buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in full military honors, drawing opposition and outrage from groups from sectors of the youth, the Catholic Church, the academe, martial law victims, and human rights activists, among others.


Today's Revolution: Democracy (1971)

Marcos' Notes for the Cancun Summit, 1981 (1981)

Progress and Martial Law (1981)

The New Philippine Republic: A Third World Approach to Democracy (1982)

An Ideology for Filipinos (1983)

Toward a New Partnership: The Filipino Ideology (1983)


  • Bonner, Raymond. Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. New York: Times Books, 1987.
  • Caoili, Manuel A. “The Philippine Congress and the Political Order”, In Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol.XXX no. 1 (January, 1986), p. 21.
  • Celoza, Albert F. Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. Praeger, Westport, 1997.
  • Espiritu, Augusto. How Democracy was Lost: A Political diary of the 1971-72 Constitutional Convention. Quezon City: New Day, 1993.
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  • Morada, Noel M. and Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem. Philippine Politics and Governance, An Introduction. Quezon City, Philippines. Department of Political Science, UP Diliman. 2006
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External links

  • https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.obituaries/nJn_y7nexEM “<Archive Obituaries> Ferdinand Marcos (September 28th 1989)”. Google. July 9, 2020
  • https://www.smh.com.au/national/hunt-for-tyrants-millions-leads-to-former-models-home-20040704-gdj9hj.html “Hunt for tyrant's millions leads to former model's home”. The Sydney Morning Herald. July 9, 2020
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1795572.stm “Philippines loses out on Marcos millions”. BBC News. July 9, 2020
  • https://www.smh.com.au/national/philandering-dictator-added-hollywood-star-to-conquests-20040704-gdj9h6.html “Philandering dictator added Hollywood star to conquests”. The Sydney Morning Herald. July 9, 2020
  • https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ferdinand_Marcos.JPEG Wikimedia Commons




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