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Useful Notes / Ferdinand Marcos

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"This nation can be great again".

"My countrymen, as of the twenty-third of this month, I signed Proclamation #1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law."
Marcos when he declared martial law on television, September 23, 1972

Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos (September 11, 1917 – September 28, 1989) was a Filipino lawyer, politician, and kleptocrat who was the 10th President of the Philippines from 1965 to his ouster 1986. He ruled as a dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981. He has four children with his wife Imelda: Maria Imelda "Imee" (governor of Ilocos Norte), former senator and vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Jr., Irene, and Aimee (adopted).

Born from politician Mariano Marcos and Josefa Edralin, he studied law at the University of the Philippines, and spent some time studying while incarcerated due to being implicated in the assassination of his father's political rival Julio Nalundasan in 1935note . Not much later, World War II came while Marcos was called for active duty in the army; he would eventually survive the Bataan Death March in 1942. Marcos would later make claims about being the "country's most decorated soldier," allegedly racking up medals that would have impressed Audie Murphy, and also claimed to head a guerilla group named "Ang Mga Maharlika," which was also disproved by US Army records.


After the war, Marcos became a two-term congressman at his native Ilocos province from 1949-1959, then became senator from that year until 1965 and the Senate President from 1963 until the same year he was elected president, making him the last Senate President to become the country's chief executive.

During the 1965 elections, he ran partly on a campaign that would make "the nation great again," which he won over re-electionist Diosdado Macapagal. With a vote of over 60% in the 1969 elections (winning against Sergio Osmeña, Jr.), he would also be the last to win the Philippine presidency by majority (no post-Marcos president has won the elections with over 50% of the vote).

While his first term is marked my massive infrastructure projects (notably the Cultural Center of the Philippines among others), his second term (the 1935 Constitution allowing for two four-year presidential terms) was marred by increasing civil unrest, otherwise known as the First Quarter Storm of 1970. The leftist insurgency was also reborn during his term, with Joma Sison's Communist Party of the Philippines gaining prominence and the Moro insurgency with the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1972. The unrest reached a crescendo with the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 1971, where he blamed the communists for instigating the attack. All of these eventually led to Marcos declaring martial law on 23 September 1972 (signed two days earlier) under the pretense of developing the "New Society," which lasted until 1981.


The martial law period was marked by human rights abuses, forced disappearances, redistribution of confiscated companies to cronies and associates, and press censorship. Marcos' closest cronies would eventually be named the Rolex 12, which included future president Fidel Ramos, businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, and future senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Marcos also had the 1973 Constitution ratified, which changed the form of government into an In Name Only parliamentary system (the parliament was named the Batasang Pambansa), of which its first elections were held in 1978.

On the diplomatic front, his regime marked the first time the staunch US ally has opened relations with Deng Xiaoping's China and the Soviet Union.

Under his regime, the government multiplied its external debt by a factor of over 70 (from less than half a million US$ to over $26 billion in 1985), some of which went to the Marcoses (they are thought to have stolen at least $10 billion, enough to earn them a spot in the Guinness World Records as the world's biggest thieves). This corruption became symbolized by Imelda's obsession with shoes - thousands of pairs of them were found at Malacañang by 1986; and her ridiculous shopping sprees abroad. Eventual mismanagement of the loans led to the economy crashing down, especially after political instability caused by Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino's death in 1983.

The turning point for the Marcos regime was the assassination of opposition leader Aquino in 1983, when he died shortly after arriving on his plane. He returned to the Philippines after having himself treated for heart ailments in the US. The actual mastermind is still unknown and has become the country's equivalent of Who Shot JFK? with fingers pointing at all directions. Nevertheless, this led to massive political instability in the country, which in turn culminated with the EDSA Revolution of 1986. The gathering at the titular EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) was triggered by controversies surrounding the snap elections earlier on February 7; results gave conflicting claims on who won between Ninoy's widow Cory and Marcos. Commission on Elections canvassers then walked out en-masse on February 9, citing fraud from the Marcos camp. A coup attempt led by Enrile and Ramos then happened on February 22, with Cardinal Jaime Sin (through radio) exhorting Filipinos to protect the coup plotters, signalling the start of the revolution. On February 25, opposing camps held separate inaugurations, though the Marcoses shortly fled to Hawaii after, marking the end of the 21-year Marcos regime.

In his dying days, Marcos told then-Vice President Salvador Laurel that he will give 90% of his possessions to the Filipino people in exchange for being buried in the country. He then died on September 28, 1989, due to multiple complications. His body was returned to the country in 1993, then from there until November 2016, his remains were refrigerated in a mausoleum at Batac, Ilocos Norte. His corpse was finally buried at the Heroes' Cemetery (trans. Libingan ng mga Bayani) on November 18, sparking massive protests as the Supreme Court voted 9-5 to allow for his burial there a week earlier.

To this day, Marcos remains the single most controversial figure in Philippine history due to actions committed during his regime, thus Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment applies. Bringing him or his family up on any discussion will rile up some feathers.

Marcos is referenced/appears in the following works:

  • Dekada '70, both a novel by Lualhati Bautista and adapted into a film in the early 2000s, were set in Marcos-era Philippines.
  • Portrayed by Ruben Rustia in A Dangerous Life, a film chronicling the events surrounding the downfall of the Marcos regime
  • His son Bongbong is a major character in the 90s play Bongbong at Kris.
  • Batas Militar, a documentary by Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, released in 1997.

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