History of the Philippines (1965-1986)

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This article covers the history of the Philippines during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos administration from 1965 to 1972

As president, Ferdinand Marcos embarked on a massive spending in infrastructural development, such as roads, health centers and schools as well as intensifying tax collection which gave the Philippines a taste of economic prosperity throughout the 1970's. He built more schools than all his predecessors combined.

In 1969, Marcos sought and won an unprecedented second term against Liberal Party Senator Sergio Osmeña, Jr. However, he was unable to reduce massive government corruption or to create economic growth proportional to population growth. The Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New Peoples Army while the Moro National Liberation Front fought for an independent Mindanao. These events, together with student protests and labour strikes were later used as justification for the imposition of martial law.

Congress called for a Constitutional Convention in 1970 in response to public clamour for a new constitution to replace the colonial 1935 Constitution.

An explosion during the proclamation rally of the senatorial slate of the opposition Liberal Party in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila on August 21, 1971, prompted Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus hours after the blast, which he restored on January 11, 1972 after public protests.

Martial Law and the Fourth Republic (1972-1986)

Martial Law (1972-1981)

September 24, 1972, issue of the Sunday edition of the Philippine Daily Express


Using the rising wave of lawlessness and the threat of a Communist insurgency as justification, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081.[1] 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 Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Senator Jose Diokno. Initially, the declaration of martial law was well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing. Crime rates plunged dramatically after a curfew was implemented. Political opponents were given the opportunity to go into exile. But, as martial law dragged on for the next nine years, excesses by the military emerged.

Constitutionally barred from seeking another term beyond 1973 and, with his political enemies in jail, Marcos reconvened the Constitutional Convention and maneuvered its proceedings to adopt a parliamentary form of government, paving the way for him to stay in power beyond 1973. Sensing that the constitution would be rejected in a nationwide plebiscite, Marcos decreed the creation of citizens' assemblies which anomalously ratified the constitution.

Even before the Constitution could be fully implemented, several amendments were introduced to it by Marcos, including the prolongation of martial law and permitting himself to be President and concurrent Prime Minister.

The economy during the decade 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. The number of tourists visiting the Philippines rose to one million by 1980 from less than 200,000 in previous years. A big portion of the tourist group was composed of Filipino balikbayans (returnees) under the Ministry of Tourism's Balikbayan Program which was launched in 1973.

The first formal elections since 1969 for an interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) were held in 1978.

In order to appease the Catholic Church before the visit of Pope John Paul II, Marcos officially lifted martial law on January 17, 1981. However he retained much of the government's power for arrest and detention.

Corruption and nepotism as well as civil unrest contributed to a serious decline in economic growth and development under Marcos, whose health declined due to lupus.

The Fourth Republic (1981-1986)

An opposition boycotted presidential elections then ensued in June 1981, which pitted Marcos (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) against retired Gen. Alejo Santos (Nacionalista Party). Marcos won by a margin of over 16 million votes, which constitutionally allowed him to have another six-year term. Finance Minister Cesar Virata was elected as Prime Minister by the Batasang Pambansa.

In 1983, opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" 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, that culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the United Nationalists Democratic Organizations (UNIDO). The elections were held on February 7, 1986. The election was marred by widespread reports of violence and tampering with results by both sides of the political fence.

The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), declared Marcos the winner. According to COMELEC's final tally, Marcos won with 10,807,197 votes to Aquino's 9,291,761 votes. By contrast, the final tally of NAMFREL, an accredited poll watcher, said Marcos won with 7,835,070 votes to Aquino's 7,053,068. The allegedly fraudulent result was not accepted by Corazon Aquino and her supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation led by Richard G. Lugar, denounced the official results. Gen. Fidel Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile declared that they no longer supported Marcos.

A peaceful civilian-military uprising forced Marcos into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president on 25 February 1986.


  1. Full text of Proclamation 1081. accessed on September 11, 2008.]