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Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos
Ferdinand Edralin Marcos

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (September 11, 1917September 28, 1989) was the tenth President of the Republic of the Philippines. He ruled the islands from December 30, 1965 until February 25, 1986.


Early Life and Accomplishments

Marcos was born in Sarrat , Ilocos Norte to Mariano Marcos , a lawyer, and Josefa Edralin , a teacher. He was a brilliant student and speaker, topping the Philippine bar exams after attending the University of the Philippines and placing high as a marksman in the university team. In the 1930s, he successfully defended himself and was acquitted of the assassination of one of his father's political rivals, writing his 800-page defense while in jail. He served as an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines in World War II and claimed (erroneously) to have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, among others. Having survived the Bataan Death March, he then led a group of resistance fighters known as the "Maharlika"; however, U.S. government archives showed that he played a rather intermittent role in the guerrila warfare during the Japanese occupation from 1943 to 1945. The promising young lawyer then became an aide to Manuel Roxas, the first president of the country after independence, and was elected to congress in 1949, serving in the House of Representatives (19491959) and Senate (19591965) for Ilocos Norte. Having many of his authored bills making it into republic statute books, he then served as Senate President (19621965), thus gaining the distinction of being the last Senate President to become the President of the Philippines.

As President

After failing to garner the nomination as presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, Marcos joined the Nacionalista Party and gained their nomination. Marcos and his running mate Fernando Lopez defeated the incumbent president Diosdado Macapagal and Genaro Magsaysay of the Liberal Party in a landslide victory in the 1965 presidential election. His first term in office showed a lot of promise, building on the relatively robust economy by developing the country's infrastructure and having an intensified tax collection. He liberalized trade with the free world, hastening the industrialization of the Philippines. He improved agricultural production to make the country self-sufficient in food, especially in rice. 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 zone. Throughout his 20-year tenure, Marcos maintained a close alliance with the United States and was a close friend of Ronald Reagan as well as Lyndon Johnson. He launched major military campaigns against Communist and Moro insurgents. He sent forces to Vietnam to assist the Americans, as well as medical teams to do humanitarian work. He was reŽlected in 1969, along with Fernando Lopez, becoming the first President of the Republic to be reŽlected, and continuing on with building infrastructure along with the economy which was greatly improving. He called for a Constitutional Convention in 1971, having 321 delegates headed by former Presidents Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal elected to rewrite the 1935 Constitution. The Convention's image was tarnished by scandals which included the bribing of some delegates to "vote" against a proposal to prohibit Marcos from continuing in power under a new constitution. The first Papal Visit to the Philippines, Asia's only Catholic nation, occurred from November 27 to November 29, 1970, when Pope Paul VI visited the country. Huge crowds met the Pope wherever he went in Metro Manila.

Marcos' second term was marked by increasing civil strife known as the "First Quarter Storm". After a series of bombings in Manila believed to be the handiwork of the New People's Army , the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Marcos warned of imminent Communist takeover and on September 21, 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081, he declared martial law. By 1973, he had assumed dictatorial control—a so-called constitutional authoritarianism along with a new constitution.

Martial Law

His vision of a "Bagong Lipunan (New Society)"—similar to the "New Order" that was imposed in Indonesia under Suharto—was pursued during the martial law years. It was a movement urging the society to work as one for the common goals of the poor as well as the privileged, and to achieve the liberation of the Filipino people through self-realization. Marcos sequestered businesses owned by oligarch families, and redistributed them to small-time businessmen. He also seized privately-owned lands and distributed it to farmers. The problem that the Bagong Lipunan would encounter was that, more often than not, it was Marcos' close friends who took over the businesses. They also received political favors from Marcos during the martial law years.

The declaration of martial law was initially very well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing. Crime rates plunged dramatically after a curfew was set. Political oppositionists were given the opportunity to go in exile. But as martial law dragged on for the next nine years, excesses by the military emerged.

Return of Free Elections and the End of Martial Law

On April 7, 1978, the first free elections in the Philippines since 1969 were declared by Marcos—for the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly). The Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement), headed by First Lady Imelda Marcos, would take 151 of the 161 seats available. None of the seats would be won by any members of Ninoy Aquino's party, the LABAN party. 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, Ruben Canoy and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. which gained only one seat. As a result, LABAN boycotted the 1980 local elections. LABAN, along with other political parties, would also boycott the 1981 National Elections.

On January 17, 1981, martial law was lifted by virtue of Proclamation No. 2045. Marcos ran for re-election with virtually no opposition. Most of the opposition parties boycotted the elections after the 1978 elections. Only the Nacionalista party fielded a candidate against Marcos, and it was out of constant pressure from Malacanang. Retired Gen. Alejo Santos ran against Marcos, but Marcos garnered 91.4% of the vote while Santos only got 8.6%. Marcos won by a margin of over 16 million votes.

Economic Changes under the Marcos Administration

To hasten economic development, President Marcos implemented a number of economic programs. These programs helped the country to enjoy the period of economic growth from the mid-1970s until the early 1980s. The farmers were given technical and financial aid and other incentives such as "price support". With the incentives given to the farmers, the country's agricultural sector grew. As a result, the Philippines became self-sufficient in rice in 1976 and even became a rice exporter. To help finance a number of economic development projects, such as infrastructure, the 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 the 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 six percent to seven 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. The number of tourists visiting the Philippine rose to one million by 1980 from less than 200,000 in previous years. The country earned 26 billion pesos. 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.

Another major source of economic growth of the country was the remittances of overseas Filipino workers. Thousands of Filipino workers found employment in the Middle East and in 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. A big portion of the annual earning of the country was allocated to the payment of annual interest on loans.

The tourism industry suffered a great decline after the Aquino Assassination. The wave of anti-Marcos demonstrations in the country that followed drove the tourists away. In addition, the political troubles hindered the entry of foreign investments. Foreign banks also stopped granting loans to the Philippine government.

Marcos tried to launch a national economic recovery program. He 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 Ė to give the Philippines more time to pay the loans. Marcos launched the Sariling Sikap (Self-Reliance), a livelihood program, in 1984. He ordered the cut in government expenditure to be able to save money for financing the livelihood program. Despite the recovery program, the economy continued to decline. Negative economic growth was experienced in the country beginning in 1984. The failure of the recovery program was due to the lack of credibility of Marcos and the rampant graft and corruption in the government. Many officials went on stealing the people's money by millions through anomalous transactions. Marcos himself spent large sums of government funds to help the candidates of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement), his party, to win.

Downfall of Marcos

During these years, his regime was marred by widespread corruption and political mismanagement by his cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. on his return to the country. It should be also noted that during his third term, Marcos's health would be at a critical point due to kidney ailments. He would be absent for weeks to undergo treatment, with no one to assume his post. But nonetheless, the assassination of Aquino would prove to be the death blow that would shake his government. Many people questioned if he was still in a capacity to govern, due to grave illness and growing political unrest. Marcos can be considered the quintessential kleptocrat, with billions of dollars supposedly looted from the Filipino treasury which have yet to be accounted for. He was also a notorious nepotist, appointing family members and close friends to high positions in his government. A Mount Rushmore-esque bust of himself, commissioned by his Tourism Minister Jose Aspiras as an act of friendship, was carved into a hillside, which was subsequently destroyed by Communist rebels. They were to prove to be one of the most destabilising factions of his reign.

In 1986, Marcos called for a snap election declaring Arturo Tolentino as his running mate. The opposition united behind Aquino's widow and running mate, Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel . Both Marcos and Aquino declared themselves winners, the election being widely suspected of fraud from both the administration and opposition. With the backing of the military (led by his former aides Juan Ponce Enrile, former Defense Minister and Fidel Ramos, former military vice-chief), and the People Power movement (see EDSA Revolution), a multisectoral congregation of protesters, Marcos was driven into exile, and Aquino became president.

He and his wife, Imelda Marcos, went into exile in Hawaii and were later indicted for embezzlement in the United States. Marcos died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1989 of kidney failure. He was interred in a private mausoleum at Byodo-In Temple on the island of Oahu, visited daily by the Marcos family and friends. The late strongman's remains are currently interred inside a refrigerated crypt in Ilocos Norte, where his son, Ferdinand, Jr., and daughter, Imee, have since become the local governor and representative, respectively. Imelda Marcos was found innocent in 1990 of embezzlement by a U.S. court, but she was convicted of graft in a trial in the Philippines in 1995.

He was the second president of Ilocano descent and an Aglipayan (he was the godson of the founder, Gregorio Aglipay).


Up to this day, people are divided on views of Ferdinand Marcos. Some say that he was a real Philippine hero by his World War II martial exploits, his meteoric rise in the political arena and authoring laws still relevant today. Some say that he was a corrupt dictator who looted the national coffers dry. Some claim that his great act of statesmanship by ceding power during the 1986 EDSA Revolution was a legacy to be remembered. Others blame him for the collapse of the economy during the mid-1980s. Others say that he was indeed a brilliant man who could have solidified the Philippines' standing as one of the great Asian nations. Some say that he was a "datu -style" politician who fused politics with fantasy. Others say that he instituted the politicising of the military and judiciary. Others feel nostalgic about Marcos' rule due to the shape of the country today. But the one thing that remains for sure is that no other Philippine president, past or present, made history like Marcos did.


  • "There are many things we do not want about the world. Let us not just mourn them. Let us change them."
  • "Leadership is the other side of the coin of loneliness, and he who is a leader must always act alone. And in acting alone, accept everything alone."

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about:
Ferdinand Marcos
  • - Vast multimedia library about the Marcos era.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45