Ferdinand Marcos

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Ferdinand Marcos
Order 10th President of the Philippines
(6th President of the 3rd Republic;
1st President of the 4th Republic)
Term of office December 30, 1965
February 25, 1986
Vice President Fernando Lopez (1965-1972)
Arturo Tolentino (1986)
Predecessor Diosdado Macapagal
Successor Corazon Aquino
Born September 11, 1917
Sarrat, Ilocos Norte
Died September 28, 1989
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (September 11, 1917September 28, 1989) was the tenth President of the Philippines, serving from 1965 to 1986. He has the distinction of being the last Senate President to be elected to the presidency and being the first president to be elected to two consecutive full terms. In 1972, he instituted an authoritarian regime that allowed him to stay in power until lifting it 1981. He was re-elected the same year to another full six-year term which was marred by political mismanagement, health issues as well as alleged human rights violations and systematic corruption. In 1986, he was re-elected for the fourth time in an allegedly fraudulent "snap election". As a result, he was removed from office by the peaceful EDSA Revolution in 1986. His term was characterized by economic prosperity through the development of massive infrastructure projects throughout the country as well as peace and political stability throughout most of his term.

Ferdinand Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte to Mariano Marcos, a lawyer, and Josefa Edralin, a teacher. He was of mixed Filipino (Ilocano), Chinese, and Japanese ancestry.

In 1937, when he was still a law student at the University of the Philippines, Marcos was indicted for the assassination of Assemblyman Julio Nalundasan, one of his father's political rivals. Marcos was convicted in November 1939, but on appeal, he argued his case before the Philippine Supreme Court and was acquitted the following year. In U.P., Marcos was a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi. After graduation, he became the top-notcher of the 1940 Philippine bar examinations.

During World War II, Marcos served as an officer in the Philippine Armed Forces, working in the 21st Infantry Division. Captured by the Japanese, he survived the Bataan Death March towards Central Luzon and then escaped. As an officer, he was awarded with medals, 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. Marcos reportedly started out fighting with President Manuel Quezon's Own Guerrilas in southern Luzon.

From 1946 to 1947, Marcos was a technical assistant to President Manuel Roxas. He became a member of the House of Representatives (1949-59) and of the Senate (1963-65). He also became the president of the Senate from 1962 to 1965). In 1954, he married Imelda Romualdez who later helped him in his successful campaign for the presidency.

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 Gerardo Roxas of the Liberal Party in a landslide victory in the 1965 presidential election.


As President

His 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.

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 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 assist the Americans, as well as medical teams to do humanitarian work.

He was re-elected in 1969, along with Fernando Lopez, becoming the first president of the Republic of the Philippines to be elected to a full second term.

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' second term was marked by increasing civil strife known as the "First Quarter Storm." After a series of bombings in Manila claimed to have been carried out by the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Marcos warned of imminent Communist takeover. On September 21, 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081, he declared martial law over the entire country, thereby extending his term indefinitely. By 1973, he had assumed dictatorial control—ushering in a so-called constitutional authoritarianism.

Martial Law

His vision of a "Bagong Lipunan (New Society)"—similar to the "New Order" that was imposed in Indonesia under dictator Suharto—was pursued during the martial law years. 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 oligarch families and distributed them to small-time crony businessmen. More often than not, those Marcos cronies took over the said businesses and used them as fronts to launder proceeds from graft and corruption. In the end, some of Marcos' cronies used them as 'cash cows'. "Crony capitalism" was the term used to describe this phenomenon. Marcos also curtailed press freedom, making the state press the only legal one. He also seized privately-owned lands and distributed them to farmers. In this way, Marcos abolished the old oligarchy - but in turn, created a new one. The old oligarchy, such as the Lopezes who owned the largest TV network then (ABS-CBN) which Marcos seized, would become a thorn in the side of Marcos' regime.

The declaration of martial law was initially very well received, given the social turmoil the Philippines was experiencing. Crime rates plunged dramatically after dusk curfews were implemented. The country would enjoy economic prosperity throughout the 1970's in the midst of growing dissent to his strong-willed rule towards the end of martial law. Political oppositionists were given the opportunity to go into exile. But as martial law dragged on for the next nine years, excesses as well as graft and corruption by the military emerged, as made manifest by the Rolex 12.

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). The Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement), headed by First Lady Imelda Marcos, would take 151 of the 161 seats available. None of the members of Ninoy Aquino's LABAN party was 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, Ruben 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. LABAN, along with other political parties, would also boycott the 1981 National Elections. Marcos himself served two concurrent posts from this period until the lifting of martial law in 1981 which was both President and interim Prime Minister.

On January 17, 1981, martial law was formally lifted by virtue of Proclamation No. 2045, as a precondition for the visit of Pope John Paul II. Marcos stepped down as Prime Minister and ran for re-election for president 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 the incumbent. 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, thus constitutionally allowing him another six-year term, running through 1987. Cesar Virata was elected as Prime Minister by the Batasang Pambansa.

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, 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 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 beginning in 1984 and continued to decline despite the government's recovery efforts. The recovery program's failure was caused by rampant graft and corruption within the government and by Marcos' lack of credibility. Marcos himself diverted large sums of government money to the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan's campaign funds.

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.. Marcos can be considered the quintessential kleptocrat, having supposedly 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 government. This practice led to widespread political mismanagement especially during the 1980's, when Marcos was mortally ill with lupus and was in and out of office. A Mount Rushmore-esque bust of himself, commissioned by his Tourism Minister Jose Aspiras as an act of friendship, was carved into a hillside, and was subsequently destroyed by suspected communist rebels. During his third term, Marcos's health was poor due to kidney ailments. He was absent for weeks at a time to undergo treatment, with no one to assume his post. Many people questioned if he was still in a capacity to govern, due to grave illness and growing political unrest. In light of these growing problems, the assassination of Aquino in 1983 would later prove to be the catalyst that would lead to the overthrow of Marcos.

In the face of escalating public discontent and under pressure from foreign allies, Marcos called for a snap election in 1986. He declared Arturo Tolentino as his running mate. The opposition united behind Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino and her running mate, Salvador Laurel. Both Marcos and Aquino declared themselves winners, the administration and opposition accusing each other of rigging the elections. Popular sentiment sided with Aquino, leading to a massive, multisectoral congregation of protesters, and the gradual defection of the military to Aquino (led by then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile whose arrest for graft and corruption charges was about to be served and Fidel Ramos, then-military vice-chief). This "People Power movement" (see EDSA Revolution) drove Marcos into exile, and installed Corazon Aquino as president.

Marcos 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 acquitted of embezzlement by a U.S. court in 1990, and was likewise acquitted of graft charges by a Philippine court in 1998.


Up to this day, people are divided on views of Ferdinand Marcos. Some say that he was a real Philippine hero by his strong-willed and stable rule, his massive infrastructure projects and his great act of statesmanship during the EDSA Revolution, refusing to allow the military to unleash their force at the masses so as to avert bloodshed. Some say that he was a corrupt, autocratic dictator who looted the national coffers dry. Others blame him for the collapse of the economy during the mid-1980s. Others say that were it not for his greed for power, 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. However, the term "de-Marcosify" refers to restructuring and the removal of cronies. According to Transparency International, Marcos is the second most corrupt head of government ever, after Suharto. [1] According to a recent survey, many Filipinos prefer Marcos' rule due to the shape of the country today. [2]


  • "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."

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Preceded by:
Diosdado Macapagal
President of the Philippines
Succeeded by:
Corazón Aquino
Preceded by:
Prime Minister of the Philippines
Succeeded by:
Cesar Virata

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