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Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Marcos

Philippine president Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (1917-1989) began his career in politics with the murder of Julio Nalundasan in 1935, and ended it with the murder of Benigno Aquino, Jr., in 1983. Some believe his entire life was based on fraud, deceit, and plunder, and his two decades as president have come to epitomize the worst excesses of autocratic rule.

Ferdinand Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos North, on September 11, 1917, to Josefa Edralin and Mariano Marcos, both teachers. Mariano was later a two-term congressman and during World War II, a collaborator with the Japanese. Subsequently he was tied to four water buffalo by Filipino guerrillas and pulled apart. Marcos' real father, a man Marcos claimed was his "godfather," was a wealthy Chinese named Ferdinand Chua. He was a well-connected municipal judge who was responsible for much of Marcos' unusually good luck. Among other things, Chua paid for young Marcos' schooling and managed to influence the Philippine Supreme Court to throw out the solid testimony which in 1939 had convicted Marcos of murder.

Marcos did well in school, as he had an extraordinary memory which allowed him to quickly memorize complicated texts and recite them forwards or backwards. In college, Marcos' principal interest was the .22-caliber college pistol team. On September 20, 1935, Julio Nalundasan was at home celebrating that day's Congressional election victory over Mariano Marcos when he was shot and killed with a .22-caliber bullet fired by the 18-year-old Marcos. Three years later, the honors student who was in his senior year of law school, was arrested for Nalundasan's murder. A year later, now a law school graduate, he was found guilty "beyond any reasonable doubt." Jailed, Marcos spent six months writing his own 830-page appeal. He also took the Philippine bar exam and passed with scores so high he was accused of cheating. Upon an oral re-examination by the Supreme Court, Marcos scored even higher with his remarkable memory. When the Supreme Court finally took up Marcos's appeal in 1940, the judge in charge (allegedly influenced by Judge Chua) was disposed to simply throw the case out. Marcos was a free man. The next day, he returned to the Supreme Court where he was administered his oath as a lawyer.

Marcos emerged from World War II with the reputation of being the greatest Filipino resistance leader of the war and the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Armed forces. (Marcos served in the U.S. Army at the beginning and the end of the war as a "third lieutenant" on clerical duty, for a time in 1944 he was a U.S. prisoner of war under a death sentence) The Army investigated these claims after the war and found them to be false and "criminal." In fact, Marcos seems to have spent the war on both sides, and at various times, was in hospitals with fevers and stomach pains, possibly from the onset of lupus, the degenerative disease that ultimately ruined his health. In early 1943 in Manila, Marcos concocted a "secret" resistance organization called Ang Mga Maharlika ("Noble Studs") which he claimed consisted of spies, saboteurs and assassins, but in fact consisted of many forgers, pickpockets, gunmen and racketeers, united by an interest in black market operations.

At the war's end, as a deputy to the U.S. Army judge advocate general in northern Luzon, Marcos was involved in choosing friends and relatives to fill minor civil service jobs, passing out favors to be redeemed later. After, he resumed his law practice, often filing false claims in Washington on behalf of Filipino veterans seeking back pay and benefits. Emboldened by his success, he filed a $595,000 claim on his own behalf, stating that the U.S. Army had commandeered over 2,000 head of brahmin cattle from Mariano Marcos's wholly imaginary ranch in Mindinao. Washington concluded that the cattle had never existed. Marcos also tried to get recognition and benefits for his resistance force, the Ang Mga Maharlika; army investigators concluded that Marcos's unit was fraudulent.

In December, 1948, after a luncheon meeting with Marcos, a magazine editor published four articles on Marcos's extraordinary war exploits, including the history of the Maharlika just after the army's findings of fraud. Marcos' reputation grew. In 1949, campaigning on promises to get veterans' benefits for 2 million more "unrecognized" Filipinos, Marcos ran on the Liberal Party ticket for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives and won astonishingly, with 70 percent of the vote. In less than a year he was worth a million dollars and owned a Cadillac convertible, mostly because of his American tobacco subsidies, a colossal cigarette smuggling operation, and his practice of extorting commissions from Chinese businesses. In 1954 he formally met Imelda Romualdez and married her.

Marcos was reelected twice, and in 1959 was elected to the Philippine Senate. He was also the Liberal Party's vice-president from 1954-1961, when he successfully managed Diosdado Macapagal's campaign for the Philippine presidency. As part of the deal, Macapagal was supposed to step aside after one term to allow Marcos to run for the presidency, but when Macapagal reneged, Marcos joined the opposition Nationalist Party and became their candidate in the 1965 election against Macapagal, which Marcos won handily strongly helped by Hartzell Spence's biography, called For Every Tear A Victory.

In 1969, Marcos became the first Philippine president to win a second term; the month following produced the most violent and bloody public demonstrations so far in the history of the country. Three years later, facing growing student unrest and a crumbling economy, Marcos declared martial law, using as his excuse the growing rebel presence of the Communist New People's Army. During the nine years of martial law, he tripled the armed forces to some 200,000 troops, guaranteeing his grip on government, and when martial law was lifted in 1981, he kept all the power he had been granted by himself. Bled to death, the economy continued to crumble as Ferdinand and Imelda became "arguably the richest couple on the planet." Marcos's health began to fail, the United States cooled off, and political opposition took hold in the Philippine middle class.

The Marcos regime began its accelerated collapse after the August 1983 assassination of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., gunned down at the Manila airport upon his return after a self-imposed three-year exile. The killing enraged Filipinos, as did the official story that the murder was the work of a single assassin. A year later, a civilian investigation brought indictments against a number of soldiers and government officials, but by 1985 they all had been acquitted. In a surprising blunder, Marcos, thinking to regain control of the situation, called for a "snap election" to be held early in 1986. The election was marred by violence and charges of fraud; his opponent was the martyred Aquino's widow, Corazon. When the Philippine National Assembly announced that Marcos was the winner, a military rebellion, supported by hundreds of thousands of Filipinos marching in the streets, forced the Marcos to flee the country. Marcos' plea to the Americans for help produced nothing more than a U.S. Air Force jet, which flew him and Imelda to Hawaii. He remained there until his death in 1989. They took with them some 300 crates of prized possessions and more than 28 million cash, in Philippine currency. President Aquino's administration said this was only a small part of the Marcos's five to ten billion of illegally acquired wealth; Ferdinand's frozen bank accounts in Switzerland were said to have $475 million. In 1995, the government was able to auction off three jewelry collections worth $13 million.

Further Reading

The official biography of Marcos is Hartzell Spence, For Every Tear a Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos (1964), expanded and reissued as Marcos of the Philippines: A Biography (1969), an interesting but uncritical journalistic work which created and perpetuated many of the myths about Marcos. This article is based on Sterling Seagrave, The Marcos Dynasty (1988). Other works readers should consult are Herie Rotea, Marcos' Lovey Dovie (1984); Raymond Bonner, Waltzing With A Dictator: The Marcoses and The Making of American Policy (1988); Lewis E, Gleek, Jr., President Marcos and the Philippine Political Culture (1988); Beth Day Romulo, Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (1987); William C. Rempel, Delusions of a Dictator: The Mind of Marcos As Revealed in His Secret Diaries (1993); Mark R. Thompson, The Anti-Marcos Struggle: Personalistic Rule and Democratic Transition in the Philippines (1996); Albert F. Cerloza, Ferdinand Marcos and The Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism (1997). □

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Marcos, Ferdinand

Ferdinand Marcos

Born: September 11, 1917
Sarrat, Philippines
Died: September 28, 1989
Honolulu, Hawaii

Filipino president and politician

Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos began his career in politics with the murder of Julio Nalundasan in 1935, and ended it after the murder of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983. Some believe his entire life was based on fraud, deceit, and theft, and his time as president has come to represent one of the prime examples of a corrupt government.

Youth and family

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was born on September 11, 1917, in Sarrat, a village in the Ilocos North region of the island of Luzon in the Philippines. His parents, Josefa Edralin and Mariano Marcos, were both teachers from important families. In 1925 Mariano Marcos became a congressman, surrounding the young Ferdinand in a political atmosphere at an early age. Mariano also had a strong influence on what was to become Ferdinand's competitive, win-at-all-costs nature. Mariano and Josefa pushed Ferdinand to excel at everything, not only his studies at school, but also at activities such as wrestling, boxing, hunting, survival skills, and marks-manship (skill with a gun or rifle). In college, Marcos's main interest was the .22-caliber college pistol team.

Marcos's real father was not Mariano but a wealthy Chinese man named Ferdinand Chua. (Marcos would claim that Chua was his "godfather.") Chua was a well-connected judge who was responsible for much of Marcos's unusual good luck as a young man. Among other things, Chua paid for young Marcos's schooling and later managed to influence the Philippine Supreme Court to overturn the young Marcos's conviction for murder.

On September 20, 1935, Julio Nalundasan was at home celebrating his congressional election victory over Mariano Marcos when he was shot and killed with a .22-caliber bullet fired by the eighteen-year-old Ferdinand Marcos. Three years later, Ferdinand was arrested for Nalundasan's murder. A year later, after having graduated from law school, he was found guilty of the crime. While in jail Marcos spent six months writing his own appeal for a new trial. When the Supreme Court finally took up Marcos's appeal in 1940, the judge in charge (apparently influenced by Judge Chua) threw out the case. Marcos was a free man. The next day, he returned to the Supreme Court and took the oath to become a lawyer.

Wartime activities

Throughout Marcos's childhood, the Philippines had been a colony (a foreign region under the control of another country) of the United States. However, the Philippines had been largely self-governing and gained independence in 1946. This occurred only after fierce fighting in the country during World War II (193945), the international conflict for control of large areas of the world between the Axis (Germany, Japan, and Italy) and the Allies (United States, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and others). During World War II, the Philippines were invaded and occupied by the Japanese, while U.S. forces and Filipino resistance fighters fought to regain control of the country.

Marcos emerged from World War II with a reputation as the greatest Filipino resistance leader of the war and the most decorated soldier in the U.S. armed forces. However, he appeared to have spent the war on both sides, lending support to both the Japanese and the United States. In early 1943 in Manila (the capital of the Philippines), Marcos created a "secret" resistance organization called Ang Mga Maharlika that he claimed consisted of agents working against the Japanese. In fact, the group consisted of many criminalsforgers, pickpockets, gunmen, and gangstershoping to make money in the wartime climate.

At the war's end, Marcos took up the practice of law again. He often filed false claims in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Filipino veterans seeking back pay (wages owed) and benefits. Encouraged by his success with these claims, he filed a $595 thousand claim on his own behalf, stating that the U.S. Army had taken over two thousand head of cattle from Mariano Marcos's ranch. In fact, this ranch never existed, which made Washington conclude that the cattle never existed.

Political career

In December 1948 a magazine editor published four articles on Marcos's war experiences, causing Marcos's reputation to grow. In 1949, campaigning on promises to get veterans' benefits for two million Filipinos, Marcos ran as a Liberal Party candidate for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives. He won with 70 percent of the vote. In less than a year he was worth a million dollars, mostly because of his American tobacco subsidies (financial assistance to grow tobacco), a huge cigarette smuggling operation, and his practice of pressuring Chinese businesses to cooperate with him. In 1954 he formally met Imelda Romualdez (1929) and married her.

Marcos was reelected twice, and in 1959 he was elected to the Philippine Senate. He was also the Liberal Party's vice-president from 1954 to 1961, when he successfully managed Diosdado Macapagal's (19111997) run for the Philippine presidency. As part of his arrangement with Marcos, Macapagal was supposed to step aside after one term to allow Marcos to run for the presidency. When Macapagal did not do this, Marcos joined the opposition Nationalist Party and became their candidate in the 1965 election against Macapagal and easily won. Marcos was now president of the Philippines.

In 1969 Marcos became the first Philippine president to win a second term. However, not all Filipinos were happy with his presidency, and the month following his reelection included the most violent public demonstrations in the history of the country. Three years later, facing growing student protest and a crumbling economy, Marcos declared martial law, a state of emergency in which military authorities are given extraordinary powers to maintain order. Marcos's excuse for declaring martial law was the growing revolutionary movement of the Communist New People's Army, which opposed his government.

During the next nine years of martial law, Marcos tripled the armed forces to some two hundred thousand troops, guaranteeing his grip on government. When martial law was lifted in 1981, he kept all the power he had been granted under martial law to himself. Meanwhile the economy continued to crumble while Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos became one of the richest couples in the world. As Marcos's health began to fail and U.S. support for him lessened, opposition to Marcos grew in the Philippine middle class.

Final years

The Marcos regime began to collapse after the August 1983 assassination (political killing) of Benigno S. Aquino Jr. (19331983), who had been Marcos's main political rival. Aquino was shot and killed when he arrived at the Manila airport after three years in the United States. The killing enraged Filipinos, as did authorities' claim that the murder was the work of a single gunman. A year later, a civilian investigation brought charges against a number of soldiers and government officials, but in 1985 none of them were found guilty. Nevertheless, most Filipinos believe that Marcos was involved in Aquino's killing.

Marcos next called for a "snap [sudden] election" to be held early in 1986. In that election, which was marked by violence and charges of fraud, Marcos's opponent was Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino. When the Philippine National Assembly announced that Marcos was the winner, a rebellion in the Philippine military, supported by hundreds of thousands of Filipinos marching in the streets, forced Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos to flee the country.

Marcos asked for U.S. aid but was given nothing more than an air force jet, which flew him and Imelda to Hawaii. He remained there until his death on September 28, 1989. The Marcoses had taken with them more than twenty-eight million cash in Philippine currency. President Aquino's administration said this was only a small part of the Marcoses' illegally gained wealth.

For More Information

Bonner, Raymond. Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.

Celoza, Albert F. Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.

Romulo, Beth Day. Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos. New York: Putnam, 1987.

Seagrave, Sterling. The Marcos Dynasty. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Spence, Hartzell. For Every Tear a Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.

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Marcos, Ferdinand Edralin

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (fārdēnänd´ ĕd´rälēn´ mär´kōs), 1917–89, Philippine political leader. A lawyer and aide to Manuel Roxas (1946–47), he was elected to congress in 1949, serving in the House of Representatives (1949–59) and Senate (1959–65). Formerly a Liberal, he broke with the party in 1965 and won the presidential election the same year as a nominee of the Nationalist party, defeating (1965) Diosdado Macapagal. As president, Marcos maintained close ties with the United States. He launched (Aug., 1969) major military campaigns against Communist insurgents (see Hukbalahap) and in Mindanao against Moro rebels (Muslims). He was reelected in 1969, and his second term was marked by increasing civil strife. In 1972, following a series of bombings in Manila, Marcos warned of imminent Communist takeover and declared martial law. In 1973, he assumed virtual dictatorial control with a new constitution. His regime's increasing isolation, fed by widespread corruption and the extravagance of his wife, Imelda, culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino (1983) on his return to the country. The opposition united behind Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, who ran against Marcos in the 1986 election. Marcos was declared the winner but was widely suspected of electoral fraud. Protests drove Marcos into exile, and Aquino became president. After substantial evidence of Marcos's corruption emerged, he and his wife, Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez Marcos, 1929–, who had served as governor of Manila and minister of human settlements in his government, were indicted for embezzlement in the United States. Marcos died in Hawaii. After her husband's death Imelda Marcos was found innocent (1990) of embezzlement by a U.S. court. She was convicted of graft in a trial in the Philippines in 1993 but that was overturned on appeal in 1998, and other trials ended in acquittals or overturned guilty verdicts. In 2003, however, the government was awarded $650 million from frozen banks accounts in Switzerland that had belonged to Ferdinand Marcos, and the Philippines has since recovered several billion dollars in all. Imelda Marcos also has served in the Philippine legislature (1978–86, 1995–98, 2010–).

See R. P. Guzman and M. A. Reforma, Government and Politics in the Philippines (1988); R. L. Youngblood, Marcos against the Church (1990).

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Marcos, Ferdinand Edralin

Marcos, Ferdinand Edralin (1917–89) Philippine statesman, president (1965–86). Marcos was elected to the Philippine Congress in 1949. As president, he received support from the USA for his military campaigns (1969) against communist guerrillas on Panay and Moro secessionists on Mindanao. Continued civil unrest led to the imposition of martial law in 1972. A new constitution (1973) gave Marcos authoritarian powers. His regime acquired a reputation for corruption and repression, symbolized by the extravagance of his wife, Imelda (1930– ). In 1983, his main rival, Benigno Aquino, was assassinated and political opposition coalesced behind Benigno's widow, Cory Aquino. Marcos appeared to win the 1986 general election, but allegations of vote-rigging forced him into exile. In 1988, US authorities indicted both him and Imelda for fraud. Ferdinand was too ill to stand trial and died in Hawaii. Imelda was subsequently acquitted, but indicted for embezzlement upon her return to Manila in 1991. In 1992, Imelda unsuccessfully ran for president. In 1993, she was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment, but appealed the judgement.

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