Pinoy Memories – Philippine President Marcos explains his “New Society” plan for the ordinary Filipino since declaring Martial Law through-out the nation on September 21, 1972.
Martial law and the New Society:
Proclamation of martial law – The spate of bombings and subversive activities led President Marcos to declare that “there is throughout the land a state of anarchy and lawlessness, chaos and disorder, turmoil and destruction of a magnitude equivalent to an actual war between the forces of our duly constituted government and the New People’s Army and their satellite organizations…and that public order and safety and security of the nation demand that immediate, swift, decisive and effective action be taken to protect and insure the peace, order and security of the country and its population and to maintain the authority of the government.”
On September 21, 1972 President Marcos issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law but it was announced only two days later. In proclaiming martial law, President Marcos assured the public that “the proclamation of martial law is not a military takeover” and that civilian government still functions.
Initial measures – In his first address to the nation after issuing Proclamation
No. 1081, President Marcos said that martial law has two objectives: (1) to save the republic, and (2) to “reform the social, economic and political institutions in our country.”
In accordance with the two objectives, President Marcos issued general orders and letters of instruction to that effect:
General Order No. 1 — The President proclaimed that he should govern the nation and direct the operations of the Government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities, as Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines;
General Order No. 2 — The President directed the Secretary of National Defense to arrest or cause the arrest and take into his custody the individuals named in the attached list and to hold them until otherwise so ordered by the President or by his duly designated representative, as well as to arrest or cause the arrest and take into his custody and to hold them otherwise ordered released by him or by his duly authorized representative such persons who may have committed crimes described in the Order;
General Order No.3 — The President ordered that all executive departments, bureaus, offices, agencies and instrumentalities of the National Government, government owned or controlled corporations, as well all governments of all the provinces, cities, municipalities and barrios should continue to function under their present officers and employees, until otherwise ordered by the President or by his duly designated representatives. The President further ordered that the Judiciary should continue to function in accordance with its present organization and personnel, and should try and decide in accordance with existing laws all criminal and civil cases, except certain cases enumerated in the Order.
General Order No. 4 — The President ordered that a curfew be maintained and enforced throughout the Philippines from twelve o’clock midnight until four o’clock in the morning.
General Order No. 5 — All rallies, demonstrations and other forms of group actions including strikes and picketing in vital industries such as in companies engaged in manufacture or processing as well as in production or processing of essential commodities or products for exports, and in companies engaged in banking of any kind, as well as in hospitals and in schools and colleges are prohibited.
General Order No. 6 — No person shall keep, possess or carry outside of his residence any firearm unless such person is duly authorized to keep, possess or carry any such firearm.
Letter of Instruction No. 1 — The President ordered the Press Secretary and the Secretary of National Defense to take over and control or cause the taking over and control of newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications for the duration of the national emergency.
Letter of Instruction No. 2 — The President ordered the Secretary of National Defense to take over the management, control and operation of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (Nawasa), the Philippine National Railways (PNR), the Philippine Airlines, Air Manila, Filipinas Orient Airways, and other public utilities.
Letter of Instruction No. 3 — The President ordered the Secretary of National Defense to take over the possession, control, operation of all privately owned aircraft and watercraft of whatever make bearing Philippine registry and to keep such under his custody for the duration of national emergency or until otherwise ordered by the President.
Letter of Instruction No. 4 — The President ordered the Secretary of Foreign Affairs not to issue travel papers such as passports and other like documents to any citizens of the Philippines except to those who are being sent abroad in the service of the Philippines.
Letter of Instruction No. 5 — The President ordered the Secretary of Justice and all subordinate officials under him not to issue any police or immigration clearance to any citizen of the Philippines who may wish to depart for other country.
Letter of Instruction No. 6 — The President ordered the Secretary of Finance and all subordinate officials under him not to issue any tax clearance to any citizen of the Philippines who may wish to depart for other country.
Pursuant to General Order No. 1, the following were arrested and detained by the military: Representatives Roque Ablan, Jr.(Ilocos Norte), Rafael Aquino (Sorsogon) and Rolando Puzon; Senators Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jose W. Diokno and Ramon Mitra; Governors Rolando Puzon (Kalinga-Apayao) and Lino Bocalan (Cavite); former Senator Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo; Con Con delegates Napoleon Rama, Enrique Voltaire Garcia, II, Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Bren Guiao, Alejandro Lichauco, Jose Nolledo, Jose Concepcion, Jr., and Jose Mari Velez; journalists Joaquin ‘Chino” Roces, Maximo Soliven, Teodoro Locsin, Sr., Amando Doronilla, Renato Constantino, and Luis Mauricio. Others arrested are as follows: Hernando Abaya, Ang Nay Quang, Luis Beltran, Jorge Bocobo, IV, Ramon Chramico, Cipriano cid, Chua Giok Su @ Bob Chua, Herminio Caloma, Romeo Dizon, Armando Eufemio, Rolando Fadul, Rolando Feleo, Jose Fuentes @ Joey, Rosalinda Galang @ Roz, Go Eng Guan, Flora Lansang, Teodosio Lansang, Guillermo Ponce de Leon, Joel Rocamora, etc. Most of the arrested were members of the opposition “sympathetic to the rebels or supporting the rebel movement” and members of the communist movement.
As a result of LOI No. 1, all newspapers, television and radio stations and other means of mass media were closed and placed under military control. Some of them were later permitted to reopen but under strict censorship. On September 22, 1972, the President signed Letter of Authority No.1, authorizing the Press Secretary and the Secretary of National Defense to permit the operation of Radio Philippines Network (RPN), Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS), and the Daily Express, “it having been established that they have not participated in a conspiracy to seize political and state power in the Philippines and to take over the government by force and violence.
The 1973 Constitution — On March 16, 1967, the Philippine Congress passed Resolution No. 2 calling for a Constitutional Convention to change the Constitution.
Election of the delegates to the Convention were held on November 20, 1970 pursuant to Republic Act No. 6132, otherwise known as the “1970 Constitutional Convention Act.”
The Constitutional Convention formally began on June 1, 1971. Former President Carlos P. Garcia, a delegate from Bohol, was elected President. Unfortunately he died on June 14, 1971 and was succeeded by another former President, Diosadado Macapagal of Pampanga.
Before the Convention could finish its work, martial law was proclaimed. Several delegates were placed under detention and others went into hiding or voluntary exile. The martial law declaration affected the final outcome of the convention. In fact, it was said, that the President dictated some provisions of the Constitution.
On November 29, 1972, the Convention approved its Proposed Constitution of the Philippines.
On November 30, 1972, the President issued Presidential Decree No.73 setting the date of the plebiscite on January 15, 1973 for the ratification or rejection of the proposed Constitution. On January 7, 1973, however, the President issued General Order No. 20 postponing indefinitely the plebiscite scheduled on January 15.
On January 10-15, 1973 Plebiscite, the Citizen Assemblies voted for (1) ratification of the 1973 Constitution, (2) the suspension of the convening of the Interim National Assembly, (3) the continuation of martial law, and (4) moratorium on elections for a period of at least seven years. On January 17, 1973 the President issued Proclamation No. 1102 announcing that the proposed Constitution had been ratified by an overwhelming vote of the members of the Citizen Assemblies, organized by Marcos himself through Presidential Decree No. 86
Various legal petitions were filed with the Supreme Court assailing the validity of the ratification of the 1973 Constitution.
On March 30, 1973, a divided Supreme Court ruled in Javellana vs. Executive Secretary (6 SCRA 1048) that “there is no further obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and effect.”
The 1973 Constitution would have established in the Philippines a parliamentary government, with the President as a ceremonial head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of government. This was not implemented as a result of the referendum-plebiscite held on January 10-15, 1972 through the Citizen Assemblies whereby an overwhelming majority rejected the convening of a National Assembly.
From 1972 until the convening of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, the President exercised absolute legislative power.
1976 Amendments to the Constitution
On October 16-17, 1976 majority of barangay voters (Citizen Assemblies) approved that martial law should be continued and ratified the amendments to the Constitution proposed by President Marcos.
The 1976 Amendments were: an Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) substituting for the Interim National Assembly, the President would also become the Prime Minister and he would continue to exercise legislative powers until martial law should have been lifted. The Sixth Amendment authorized the President to legislate:
Whenever in the judgment of the President there exists a grave emergency or a threat or imminence thereof, or whenever the Interim Batasang Pambansa or the regular National Assembly fails or is unable to act adequately on any matter for any reason that in his judgment requires immediate action, he may, in order to meet the exigency, issue the necessary decrees, orders or letters of instructions, which shall form part of the law of the land.
First national election under martial law
On April 7, 1978, the first national election under martial law was held. The election for 165- members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa resulted to the massive victory of the administration coalition party, the “Kilusang Bagong Lipunan ng Nagkakaisang Nacionalista, Liberal, at iba pa” or KBL. First Lady Imelda Marcos, KBL Chairman for NCR, won the highest number of votes in Metro Manila. Only 15 opposition candidates in other parts of the country won. Among them were: Francisco Tatad (former Secretary of Public Information to Pres. Marcos), Reuben Canoy (Mindanao Alliance), Homobono Adaza (MA), and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. None of the members of Laban ng Bayan of former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. were elected. The Opposition denounced the massive votebuying and cheating in that elections. The opposition Liberal Party boycotted the elections as a futile exercise.
On April 21, 1978, the election of 14 sectoral representatives (agricultural, labor, and youth) was held.
On June 12, 1978 the Interim Batasang Pambansa was convened with Ferdinand E. Marcos as President-Prime Minister and Querube Makalintal as Speaker.
Lifting of martial law – After putting in force amendments to the Constitution and legislations securing his sweeping powers and with the Batasan under his control, President Marcos lifted martial law on January 17, 1981. However, the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus continued in the autonomous regions of Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao. The Opposition dubbed the lifting of martial law as a mere “face lifting” as a precondition to the visit of Pope John Paul II.
1981 presidential election and the Fourth Republic
On June 16, 1981, six months after the lifting of martial law, the first presidential election in twelve years was held. As to be expected, President Marcos run and won a massive victory over the other candidates — Alejo Santos of the Nacionalista Party (Roy Wing) and Cebu Assemblyman Bartolome Cabangbang of the Federal Party. The major opposition parties, Unido (United Democratic Opposition, a coalition of opposition parties, headed by Salvador Laurel) and Laban, boycotted the elections.
In an almost one-sided election, President Marcos won an overwhelming 88% of the votes, the highest in Philippine electoral history. The Nacionalista candidate Alejo Santos garnered only 8.6% of the votes and Cabangbang obtained less than 3%.
On June 30, 1981, President Marcos was inaugurated in grandiose ceremonies and proclaimed the “birth of a new Republic.” The new Republic lasted only for less than five years. Economic and political crises led to its demise.
The failed impeachment attempt
On August 13, 1985, fifty-six Assemblymen signed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Marcos for graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, gross violation of his oath of office and other high crimes.
They cited the San Jose Mercury News exposé of the Marcoses’ multi-million dollar investment and property holdings in the United States. The properties allegedly amassed by the First Family were the Crown Building, Lindenmere Estate, and a number of residential apartments (in New Jersey and New York), a shopping center in New York, mansions (in London, Rome and Honolulu), the Helen Knudsen Estate in Hawaii and three condominiums in San Francisco, California.
The Assemblymen also included in the complaint the misuse and misapplication of funds “for the construction of the Film Center, where X-rated and pornographic films are exhibited, contrary to public morals and Filipino customs and traditions.”
The following day, the Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Good Government dismissed the impeachment complain for being insufficient in form and substance:
The resolution is no more than a hodge-podge of unsupported conclusions, distortion of law, exacerbated by ultra partisan considerations. It does not allege ultimate facts constituting an impeachable offense under the Constitution. In sum, the Committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in form and substance to warrant its further consideration. It is not sufficient in form because the verification made by the affiants that the allegations in the resolution “are true and correct of our own knowledge” is transparently false. It taxes the ken of men to believe that the affiants individually could swear to the truth of allegations, relative to the transactions that allegedly transpired in foreign countries given the barrier of geography and the restrictions of their laws. More important, the resolution cannot be sufficient in substance because its careful assay shows that it is a mere charade of conclusions.
Economy – Economic performance during the Marcos era was strong at times, but when looked at over his whole regime, it was not characterized by strong economic growth. Penn World Tables report real growth in GDP per capita averaged 3.5% from 1951 to 1965, while under the Marcos regime (1966 to 1986), annual average growth was only 1.4%. To help finance a number of economic development projects, such as infrastructure, the Marcos 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% in the previous decade. The Gross National Product rose from P55 billion ($7.7 billion) in 1972 to P193 billion ($27 billion) in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy’s growth. Most of these “tourists” were Filipino balikbayans (returnees) who came under the Ministry of Tourism’s Balikbayan Program, launched in 1973.
Economic growth was largely financed, however, by U.S. economic aid and several loans made by the Marcos government. The country’s foreign debts were less than US$1billion when Marcos assumed the presidency in 1965, and more than US$28billion when he left office in 1986. A sizable amount of these moneys went to Marcos family and friends in the form of behest loans. These loans were assumed by the government and still being serviced by taxpayers. Today, more than half of the country’s revenues are outlayed for the payments on the interests of loans alone.
Another major source of economic growth was the remittances of overseas Filipino workers. Thousands of Filipino workers, unable to find jobs locally, sought and 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.
The Philippine economy suffered a great decline after the Aquino assassination by Fidel Ramos’ assassination squad 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 civil unrest, rampant graft and corruption within the government and by Marcos’ lack of credibility. Marcos himself diverted large sums of government money to his party’s campaign funds. The unemployment rate ballooned from 6.30% in 1972 to 12.55% in 1985.
The “Downfall” begins – The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s headline, February 26.
During these years, his regime was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement by his relatives and cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. Critics considered Marcos as the quintessential kleptocrat, having looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury. Much of the lost sum has yet to be accounted for, but recent documents have revealed that it was actually Fidel Ramos who had diverted the money (source required to substantiate this). He was also a notorious nepotist, appointing family members and close friends to high positions in his cabinet. This practice led to even more widespread mishandling of government, especially during the 1980s when Marcos was mortally ill with lupus and was in and out of office. Perhaps the most prominent example is the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a multi-billion dollar project that turned out to be a white elephant which allegedly provided huge kickbacks to Marcos and his businessman-friend, Herminio Disini, who spearheaded the project. The reactor, which turned out to be based on old, costly designs and built on an earthquake fault, has still to produce a single watt of electricity. The Philippine government today is still paying interests on more than US$28 billion public debts incurred during his administration. It was reported that when Marcos fled, U.S. Customs agents discovered 24 suitcases of gold bricks and diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags; in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars are allegedly among the personal properties he, his family, his cronies and business partners had surreptitiously taken with them when the Reagan administration provided them safe passage to Hawaii.
During his third term, Marcos’s health deteriorated rapidly due to kidney ailments. He was absent for weeks at a time for treatment, with no one to assume command. Many people questioned whether he still had capacity to govern, due to his grave illness and the ballooning political unrest. With Marcos ailing, his equally powerful wife, Imelda, emerged as the government’s main public figure. Marcos dismissed speculations of his ailing health–he used to be an avid golfer and fitness buff who liked showing off his physique. In light of these growing problems, the assassination of Aquino in 1983 would later prove to be the catalyst that led to his overthrow. Many Filipinos came to believe that Marcos, a shrewd political tactician, had no hand in the murder of Aquino but that he was involved in cover-up measures. However, the opposition blamed Marcos directly for the assassination while others blamed the military and his wife, Imelda. The 1985 acquittals of Gen. Fabian Ver as well as other high-ranking military officers for the crime were widely seen as a miscarriage of justice.
By 1984, his close personal ally, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, started distancing himself from the Marcos regime that he and previous American presidents had strongly supported even after Marcos declared martial law. The United States, which had provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, was crucial in buttressing Marcos’ rule over the years. During the Carter administration the relation with the U.S. soured somewhat when President Jimmy Carter targeted the Philippines in his human rights campaign. In 1981 Vice President George Bush seemed to signal a different approach when in his visit to Manila he told Marcos, “We love your adherence to democratic principles and to democratic processes.”
In the face of escalating public discontent and under pressure from foreign allies, Marcos called a snap presidential election for 1986, with more than a year left in his term. He selected Arturo Tolentino as his running mate. The opposition united behind Aquino’s widow, Corazon and her running mate, Salvador Laurel.
The final tally of the National Movement for Free Elections, an accredited poll watcher, showed Aquino winning by almost 800,000 votes. However, the government tally showed Marcos winning by almost 1.6 million votes. This appearance of blatant fraud by Marcos led the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the United States Senate to condemn the elections. Both Marcos and Aquino traded accusations of vote-rigging. Popular sentiment in Metro Manila sided with Aquino, leading to a massive, multisectoral congregation of protesters, and the gradual defection of the military to Aquino led by Marcos’ cronies, Enrile and Ramos. It must be noted that prior to his defection, Enrile’s arrest warrant, having been charged for graft and corruption, was about to be served. The “People Power movement” drove Marcos into exile, and installed Corazon Aquino as the new president. At the height of the revolution, Enrile revealed that his ambush was faked in order for Marcos to have a pretext for imposing martial law. However, Marcos maintained that he was the duly-elected and proclaimed President of the Philippines for a fourth term. Marcos’ wife was found to have over 2500 pairs of shoes in her closet.
The Marcos family and their associates went into exile in Hawaii and were later indicted for embezzlement in the United States. Marcos died in Honolulu on September 28, 1989 of kidney, heart and lung ailments. He was interred in a private mausoleum at Byodo-In Temple on the island of Oahu, visited daily by the Marcos family, political allies and friends. The late strongman’s remains are currently interred inside a refrigerated crypt in Ilocos Norte, where his son, Ferdinand, Jr., and eldest daughter, Imee, have since become the local governor and representative, respectively. A Mount Rushmore-esque bust of Ferdinand Marcos, commissioned by Tourism Minister Jose Aspiras, was carved into a hillside in Benguet. It was subsequently destroyed by suspects that include left-wing activists, members of a local tribe who have been displaced by its construction, and looters hunting for the Marcos legendary hidden treasure. Imelda Marcos was acquitted of embezzlement by a U.S. court in 1990, but is still facing a few hundred additional graft charges in Philippine courts in 2006.
In 1995 some 10,000 Filipinos won a U.S. class-action lawsuit filed against the Marcos estate. The charges were filed by victims or their surviving relatives for torture, execution and disappearances. Human rights groups place the number of victims of extrajudicial killings under martial law at 1500 and Karapatan (a local human rights group’s) records show 759 involuntarily disappeared (their bodies never found). While military historian Alfred McCoy in his book “Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy” and in his speech “Dark Legacy” cite 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and 70,000 incarcerated during the Marcos years. The newspaper “Bulatlat” place the number of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention at 120,000.
The Legacy – Prior to Marcos, Philippine presidents had followed the path of “traditional politics” by using their position to help along friends and allies before stepping down for the next “player.” Marcos essentially destroyed this setup through military rule, which allowed him to rewrite the rules of the game so they favored the Marcoses and their allies.
His practice of using the politics of patronage in his desire to be the “amo” or godfather of not just the people, but the judiciary, legislature and administrative branches of the government ensured his downfall, no matter how Marcos justified it according to his own philosophy of the “politics of achievement”. This practice entailed bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement to gain the support of the aforementioned sectors. The 14 years of his dictatorship, according to critics, have warped the legislative, judiciary and the military.
Another allegation was that his family and cronies looted so much wealth from the country that to this day investigators have difficulty determining precisely how many billions of dollars have been salted away. The Swiss government has also returned US$684 million in allegedly ill-gotten Marcos wealth.
According to staunch Marcos critic Jovito Salonga, author of the book “Presidential Plunder: the Quest for the Marcos Ill-Gotten Wealth,” monopolies in several vital industries have been created and placed under the control of Marcos cronies, such as coconut (under Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile), tobacco (under Lucio Tan), banana (under Antonio Floirendo), manufacturing (under Herminio Disini and Ricardo Silverio), and sugar (under Roberto Benedicto). The Marcos and Romualdez families became owners, directly or indirectly, of the nation’s largest corporations, such as the Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT), the Philippine Airlines (PAL), Meralco (a national electric company), Fortune Tobacco, the San Miguel Corporation (Asia’s largest beer and bottling company), numerous newspapers, radio and TV broadcasting companies, several banks, real estate properties in New York, California and Hawaii. It was no exaggeration when Imelda Marcos declared in an interview, that her family “own practically everything in the Philippines.
The Aquino government also accused them of skimming off foreign aid and international assistance. This is a clear example of the aforementioned “crony capitalism” that Marcos introduced during the New Society.
His apologists claim Marcos was a good president gone bad and that he was a man of rare gifts–a brilliant lawyer, a shrewd politician and keen legal analyst with a ruthless streak and a flair for leadership.
Having been in power for more than 20 years, Marcos also had the very rare opportunity to lead the Philippines toward prosperity, with massive infrastructure he put in place as well as an economy on the rise.
However, he put these talents to work by building a regime that he apparently intended to perpetuate as a dynasty. A former aide of Marcos said that “Nobody will ever know what a remarkable president he could have made. That’s the saddest part”. Among the many documents he left behind in the Palace, after he fled in 1986, was one appointing his wife as his successor.
Opponents state that the evidence suggests that he used the communist threat as a pretext for seizing power. However, the communist insurgency was at its peak during the late 1960s to early 1970s when it was found out that the People’s Republic of China was shipping arms to support the communist cause in the Philippines after the interception of a vessel containing loads of firearms. After he was overthrown, former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile stated that certain incidents had been contrived to justify the imposition of Martial Law, such as Enrile’s ambush.
The Martial Law dictatorship may have helped boost the communist insurgency’s strength and numbers, but not to the point that could have led to the overthrow of the elected government. Marcos’ regime was crucial in the United States’ fight against communism and its influences, with Marcos himself being a staunch anti-communist. Marcos however had an ironically mild streak to his “strongman” image, and as much as possible avoided bloodshed and confrontation.
His most ardent supporters claim Marcos was serious about Martial Law and had genuine concern for reforming the society as evidenced by his actions during the period, up until his cronies, whom he entirely trusted, had firmly entrenched themselves in the government. By then, they say he was too ill and too dependent on them to do something about it. The same has been said about his relationship with his wife Imelda, who became the government’s main public figure in light of his illness, by then wielding perhaps more power than Marcos himself.
It is important to note that many laws written by Marcos are still in force and in effect. Out of thousands of proclamations, decrees and executive orders, only a few were repealed, revoked, modified or amended. Few credit Marcos for promoting Filipino culture and nationalism. His 21 years in power with the help of U.S. massive economic aid and foreign loans enabled Marcos to build more schools, hospitals and infrastructure than any of his predecessors combined. Due to his iron rule, he was able to impose order and reduce crime by strict implementation of the law. The relative economic success that the Philippines enjoyed during the initial part of his presidency is hard to dispel. Many of Marcos’ accomplishments were overlooked after the so-called “People Power” EDSA Revolution, but the Marcos era definitely had accomplishments in its own right.
A journalist said that “The Marcoses were the best of us, and they were the worst of us. That’s why we say we hate them so much.”
According to Transparency International, Marcos is the second most corrupt head of government ever, after Suharto. Even so, according to a recent survey, some Filipinos prefer Marcos’ rule due to the shape of the country in administrations succeeding his. Many admire his autocratic, strong-arm rule, saying that his style of leadership is sorely missed and needed in the post-EDSA Philippines where too much democracy has ruined the body politic, with fractious standoffs in Congress, endless so-called “People Power” demonstrations, deadlocks in the Senate and movie actors as well as traditional politicians being elected into public office. A few are nostalgic for the Marcos era, where the government was well-organized and laws were strictly followed by civilians, leading to a relatively disciplined populace.
On the other hand, many despise his regime, his silencing the free press, his curtailing of civil liberties such as the right to peaceably assemble, his dictatorial control, the imprisonment, torture, murder and disappearance of thousands of his oppositionists, and his supposed shameless plunder of the nation’s treasury. It is quite evident that the EDSA Revolution left the Philippine society polarized. Nostalgia remains high in parts of the populace for the Marcos era due to the downward spiral the Philippines fell into after his departure. It can be said that his public image has been significantly rehabilitated after worsening political and economic problems that have hounded his successors. The irony is that these economic troubles are largely due to the country’s massive debts incurred during his administration. The Marcos Era’s legacy, polarizing as it is, remains deeply embedded in the Philippines today.