SAN FRANCISCO — You’ve been hearing a lot about the date – September 21, 1972 — and the event — the day martial law was imposed on our country, the day the Marcos dictatorship was born.
That was 40 years ago.
This may not mean much to you who grew up after the nightmare finally ended, after Filipinos rallied to oust one of the most despicable leaders in world history.
You’ve probably heard about him. If you travel north, you might even see his corpse in a glass case. You might also see remnants of a giant bust carved on the side of a mountain.
You know how shameless Filipino politicians show off by putting up big posters with their photos in public places? Well, try to imagine living under a leader who actually thought that he was so great he should have his face carved on a gigantic rock for all to see.
Think about it.
Someone blew up that bust many years ago — which is really a shame. It was hideous, but still, it could have served as a reminder of what we went through. What your parents and grandparents went through under Ferdinand Marcos.
You probably heard about the debates on whether he should be buried with our other heroes at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. You probably heard his son, now a senator, defending his record, claiming that had Marcos not been overthrown, the country would have turned into another Singapore.
It’s a bizarre claim. And I never get tired of pointing this out: Bongbong is essentially arguing that the Philippines would have become another Singapore, known as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, under a president considered one of the most corrupt leaders in history. (Google “most corrupt leaders” and you’ll understand why Bongbong is bonkers.)
You’ve probably also heard the dictator’s supporters remember those years as the good ‘ol days. The country was more peaceful, and people were happier, they’d say.
You know what, in some ways, they were right.
I was eight years old when martial law was declared, and I remember being so happy that day. Classes were suspended, and there was nothing to watch on TV but cartoons.
Our neighbors and even my parents were glad to see an end to the student demonstrations. People were lining up to ride a jeepney. To some, it certainly looked like an entirely different country.
And it was.
But these were not the changes that most people, especially the middle class, thought were actually taking place.
For in those early months and years, middle class and upper class families welcomed Marcos’s version of “peace and order,” the orderly queues and the empty streets where activists once voiced their opposition to corruption and injustice. But behind the scenes, unknown to many, the stealing, the torture, the killing had begun.
It had grown quiet all of sudden, because those who had the guts to speak out had been silenced. Imprisoned. Tortured. Co-opted. Murdered.
Actually, back then, the term Marcos’s goons used was “salvage.” Yes, salvage, as in “to save” or “to rescue.” For that was how Marcos and his allies imposed “peace and order.” They saved the regime’s critics and opponents – by killing them.
Later on, even the phrase “peace and order” morphed into a sick joke. My father enjoyed telling it.
“Peace and order? Ah, that actually means, ‘I want a piece of this. I want a piece of that. And that’s an order.’”
Remember that the next time you hear of Imelda’s jewels or shoes, of news about some mansion or bank account linked to the Marcoses.
Then there’s the argument that goes like this: ‘What was the point of getting rid of Marcos? Look at how there’s still so much corruption and injustice in Philippine society after all these years.’
But one thing you need to remember, and perhaps we need to remind ourselves about this too, those of us who joined the uprising to get rid of Marcos — We didn’t march thinking we would suddenly live in paradise. We didn’t face riot police and the security forces thinking that the country’s problems– the corruption, the poverty, the abuse of power — would suddenly disappear.
We joined the fight to get rid of a tyrant. And guess what – we won. And you won.
I know it’s hard to believe, especially given all the news of corruption and abuse and of people dying and disappearing.
But trust me: it was much, much worse back then. It was a much scarier, more violent time, when even the mildest criticism of government, of Marcos, of Imelda, could land you in jail or even get you killed.
Look at it this way. Some of you don’t like the current president. And you probably even joined the fad of Noynoying, making fun of the guy, calling him all sorts of names. You know what would have happened to you if you had tried a stunt like that during the Marcos years?
Marcos’s allies want you to forget that. They want you to see the long struggle against dictatorship, and the uprising that finally brought it down as wasted effort.
Which is really an absurd view if you think about it. It’s like telling our heroes and those who waged past struggles in our history that everything that happened, everything they did was a waste.
It’s like telling Jose Rizal, “You know those novels and essays and poems you wrote, including that last one you composed shortly before you were shot to death by the Spaniards, all that was a waste of time. For look at how messed up the country is right now.”
It’s like telling my own father, “Papa, joining the guerrillas was a stupid idea, given how the country whose freedom you defended against the Japanese has turned out.”
Fighting Marcos was worth it. For we took on a bully and we won.
This is not to downplay or dismiss the problems the country faces today.
And you should speak out about them. You should complain and protest. You should demand that things should be better, and you should go out there to try to make them better. It is perfectly all right for you to march, to picket and even to go Noynoying.
Just don’t believe those who say it was much better before.
You’ll hear it from Marcos’s old allies.
You’ll hear it from those who simply don’t like democracy, who find it inconvenient because it keeps them from acquiring more wealth and more power.
You’ll hear from those who just can’t stand ideas they don’t agree with, who arrogantly think they have all the answers and must therefore have all the power.
They’ll present themselves as the nation’s saviors based on twisted claims. Some would point to their military discipline and experience. Others would claim to have the correct political line base on historical truths. Some would claim to have god on their side.
Don’t trust the liars and the bullies. Democracy can be messy and chaotic. But the alternatives are even messier. They create a false, deceptive sense of “peace and order.”
Like the cartoon shows I watched the day Marcos’s dictatorship began its reign of destruction.
On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/benjamin.pimentel
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
TAGS: Features, Ferdinand Marcos, Global Nation, martial law anniversary
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
This article is about a former President of the Philippines. For his son, a politician and former senator of the Philippines, see Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In this Philippine name, the middle name or maternal family name is Edralin and the surname or paternal family name is Marcos.
Marcos in 1982
|10thPresident of the Philippines|
December 30, 1965 – February 25, 1986
|Prime Minister||Himself (1978–1981)|
|Vice President||Fernando López(1965–1973)|
|Preceded by||Diosdado Macapagal|
|Succeeded by||Corazon Aquino|
|3rdPrime Minister of the Philippines|
June 12, 1978 – June 30, 1981
|Preceded by||Office established|
(Position previously held by Jorge B. Vargas)
|Succeeded by||Cesar Virata|
|Secretary of National Defense|
August 28, 1971 – January 3, 1972
|Preceded by||Juan Ponce Enrile|
|Succeeded by||Juan Ponce Enrile|
December 31, 1965 – January 20, 1967
|Preceded by||Macario Peralta|
|Succeeded by||Ernesto Mata|
|11thPresident of the Senate of the Philippines|
April 5, 1963 – December 30, 1965
|Preceded by||Eulogio Rodriguez|
|Succeeded by||Arturo Tolentino|
|Senator of the Philippines|
December 30, 1959 – December 30, 1965
|Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's 2nd District|
December 30, 1949 – December 30, 1959
|Preceded by||Pedro Albano|
|Succeeded by||Simeon M. Valdez|
|Born||Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos|
(1917-09-11)September 11, 1917
Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, Philippine Islands
|Died||September 28, 1989(1989-09-28) (aged 72)|
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
|Resting place||Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center, Batac, Ilocos Norte|
Heroes' Cemetery, Taguig, Metro Manila
(since November 18, 2016)
|Political party||Kilusang Bagong Lipunan|
|Spouse(s)||Imelda Romuáldez (m. 1954)|
|Children||4 (Imee, Bongbong, Irene, and an adopted child, Aimee)|
|Alma mater||University of the Philippines|
|Allegiance||Philippines / United States[a]|
|Unit||11th Infantry Division|
14th Infantry Regiment
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos Sr. (September 11, 1917 – September 28, 1989) was a Filipino politician and kleptocrat who was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He ruled as a dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981. His regime was infamous for its corruption, extravagance, and brutality.
Marcos claimed an active part in World War II, including fighting alongside the Americans in the Bataan Death March and being the "most decorated war hero in the Philippines". A number of his claims were found to be false and United States Army documents described Marcos's wartime claims as "fraudulent" and "absurd".
Marcos started as an attorney, then served in the Philippine House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and the Philippine Senate from 1959 to 1965. He was elected President in 1965, and presided over a growing economy during the beginning and intermediate portion of his 20-year rule, but ended in loss of livelihood, extreme poverty, and a crushing debt crisis. Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law on September 23, 1972, during which he revamped the constitution, silenced the media, and used violence and oppression against the political opposition, Muslims, communist rebels, and ordinary citizens. Martial law was ratified by 90.77% of the voters during the Philippine Martial Law referendum, 1973 though the referendum was marred with controversy.
Public outrage led to the snap elections of 1986. Allegations of mass cheating, political turmoil, and human rights abuses led to the People Power Revolution in February 1986, which removed him from power. To avoid what could have been a military confrontation in Manila between pro- and anti-Marcos troops, Marcos was advised by President Ronald Reagan through Senator Paul Laxalt to "cut and cut cleanly", after which Marcos fled to Hawaii. Marcos was succeeded by Corazon "Cory" Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. who had flown back to the Philippines to face Marcos.
According to source documents provided by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the Marcos family stole US$5–10 billion. The PCGG also maintained that the Marcos family enjoyed a decadent lifestyle—taking away billions of dollars from the Philippines between 1965 and 1986. His wife Imelda Marcos, whose excesses during the couple's conjugal dictatorship made her infamous in her own right, spawned the term "Imeldific". Two of their children, Imee Marcos and Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., are still active in Philippine politics.
Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was born on September 11, 1917, in the town of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, to Mariano Marcos and Josefa Edralin (1893–1988). He was later baptized into the Philippine Independent Church, but was first baptized in the Roman Catholic Church at the age of three.
In December 1938, Ferdinand Marcos was prosecuted for the murder of Julio Nalundasan. He was not the only accused from the Marcos clan; also accused was his father, Mariano, his brother, Pio, and his brother-in-law Quirino Lizardo. Nalundasan, one of the elder Marcos's political rivals, had been shot and killed in his house in Batac on September 21, 1935 – the day after he had defeated Mariano Marcos a second time for a seat in the National Assembly. According to two witnesses, the four had conspired to assassinate Nalundasan, with Ferdinand Marcos eventually pulling the trigger. In late January 1939, they were finally denied bail and later in the year, they were convicted. Ferdinand and Lizardo received the death penalty for premeditated murder, while Mariano and Pio were found guilty of contempt of court. The Marcos family took their appeal to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, which overturned the lower court's decision on 22 October 1940, acquitting them of all charges except contempt.
Marcos studied law at the University of the Philippines, attending the prestigious College of Law. He excelled in both curricular and extra-curricular activities, becoming a valuable member of the university's swimming, boxing, and wrestling teams. He was also an accomplished and prolific orator, debater, and writer for the student newspaper. He also became a member of the University of the Philippines ROTC Unit (UP Vanguard Fraternity) where he met some of his future cabinet members and Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff. When he sat for the 1939 Bar Examinations, he received a near-perfect score of 98.8%, although some have disputed this score. The Philippine Supreme Court felt justified in altering his scoring. He graduated cum laude.. He was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu and the Phi Kappa Phi international honor societies, the latter giving him its Most Distinguished Member Award 37 years later.
In Seagrave's book The Marcos Dynasty, he mentioned that Marcos possessed a phenomenal memory and exhibited this by memorizing complicated texts and reciting them forward and backward, even such as the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, in an interview with the Philippine Star on March 25, 2012, shared her experience as a speech writer to President Marcos: "One time, the Secretary of Justice forgot to tell me that the President had requested him to draft a speech that the President was going to deliver before graduates of the law school. And then, on the day the President was to deliver the speech, he suddenly remembered because Malacañang was asking for the speech, so he said, 'This is an emergency. You just have to produce something.' And I just dictated the speech. He liked long speeches. I think that was 20 or 25 pages. And then, in the evening, I was there, of course. President Marcos recited the speech from memory."
He was married to Imelda Romualdez, on May 1, 1954 and the marriage produced three children:
- Maria Imelda "Imee" Marcos (born 12 November 1955), Governor of Ilocos Norte
- Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (born 13 September 1957), Senator of the Philippines
- Irene Marcos (born 16 September 1960)
His fourth child, Aimee Romualdez Marcos, was adopted and was a musician in 2012
Marcos claimed that he was a descendant of Antonio Luna, a Filipino general during the Philippine–American War. He also claimed that his ancestor was a 16th-century pirate, Lim-A-Hong (Chinese: 林阿鳳), who used to raid the coasts of the South China Sea.
|Ancestors of Ferdinand Marcos|
The subject of Marcos's military career has been the subject of debate and controversy. Before World War II, Marcos was already a Reserve Officers' Training Corps graduate during his time studying law. Hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, the Japanese simultaneously bombed many places in the Philippines, including Clark Field. The 14th Army began its invasion with a landing on Batan Island (not to be confused with Bataan Peninsula), 120 miles (190 km) off the north coast of Luzon on the same day, by selected naval infantry units. Landings on Camiguin Island and at Vigan, Aparri, and Gonzaga in northern Luzon followed two days later. Marcos was one of those who were called into the army as a 3rd lieutenant during the mobilization in the summer and fall of 1941. The U.S. Army has confirmed that Ferdinand Marcos fought on the U.S. side after the December 1941 Japanese invasion of the Philippines until April 1942, before being taken prisoner. He also had records showing that he fought on the American side again from December 1944 until the end of the war.
Marcos would be one of the 78,000 Filipino and American troops who surrendered at Bataan on April 9, 1942, four months after the Japanese initiated their invasion of the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March that followed the surrender. In 1962, Marcos would claim to be the "most decorated war hero of the Philippines" by garnering almost every medal and decoration that the Filipino and American governments could give to a soldier. Included in his 27 war medals and decorations are that of the Distinguished Service Cross (allegedly pinned by General Douglas MacArthur) and the Medal of Honor (allegedly pinned by General Jonathan M. Wainwright); these claims have been discredited. Marcos was not listed in General Douglas MacArthur's "List of Recipients of Awards and Decorations" issued from December 7, 1941 through June 30, 1945 that was compiled in Tokyo, and General Jonathan Wainwright's list of 120 Americans and Filipinos who were awarded during the Bataan campaign by the War Department shortly before his surrender. Colonel Manriquez and Adjutant Captain Rivera who were the commanders of the 14th Infantry, whom Marcos claimed to have served under, attested that Marcos was not a soldier, but was a non-combatant and a Civil Affairs officer. Marcos did receive campaign ribbons given to all combatant and non-combatant participants "in the defense of Bataan and in the resistance." His claim of having received the Order of the Purple Heart has also been shown to have been false—his name does not appear on the official roster of recipients.
Later research showed the wartime exploits of Marcos to be mostly propaganda, being inaccurate or untrue. In 1986, research by historian Alfred W. McCoy into United States Army records showed most of Marcos's medals to be fraudulent. According to Ricardo José, former chairman of the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, Marcos's claims in his self-commissioned autobiography Marcos of the Philippines that Gen. Douglas MacArthur pinned on him the Distinguished Service Cross medal for delaying Japanese at Bataan for 3 months was highly improbable. As with many stories about members of the Marcos family, there is some controversy about the exact nature of the death of Mariano Marcos, whom numerous schools were named after. Some versions saying he was executed by the Japanese in Bacnotan, La Union,