Forgetting the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986)

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Forgetting the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986)

Topic |  

boholano-thumbAre we a soft, forgetting, forgiving nation? We ask the question because today remembering the Marcos dictatorship and its incalculable harm seems so difficult. Marcos’ family members have been entrenched in political power soon after his death. And Senator Bongbong Marcos is running for Vice-President with Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago as candidate for President.

Marcos’ 20-year rule. Ferdinand Marcos was elected President in 1965. When his term was to end in 1969, he ran again and was reelected to serve until 1973. Not content to end his second and final term under the 1935 Constitution, he declared martial law in October 1972. He captured the unfinished 1971 Constitutional Convention and ruled under his 1973 Constitution that legitimized his authoritarian rule or dictatorship. He won another presidential term against his chosen rival in 1981 to legitimize the continuation of his dictatorship.

On August 21, 1983 Ninoy Aquino was assassinated upon his return from the United States to persuade Marcos to end his dictatorship and restore democracy. This invigorated the suppressed opposition to the Marcos dictatorship. To justify his continued rule, Marcos set up the “snap presidential election” to be held on February 17, 1986.

Marcos lost to Corazon Aquino and the united opposition but had himself declared the winner by massive cheating in the count. Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel V. Ramos led the military coup against the dictator. Jaime Cardinal Sin summoned the people to come to EDSA in support of Cory Aquino and the Enrile-Ramos coup against Marcos.


The resulting massive “People Power Revolt” along EDSA forced Marcos to leave the country on February 25 to start his exile in Hawaii under the auspices of President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. government.

Cumulative, incalculable harm. The cumulative outcome and costs of the Marcos dictatorship that added over 13 years to his seven years as a constitutional president were incalculable. He was not content with being the only president who had been reelected to a second year of four years in 1969. However enormous, his plunder of the nation’s wealth is only one of the costly consequences of his evil rule.

Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos revealed: “We own practically everything in the Philippines….”  She came out with a series of “bombshell” revelations as published in December 1998 issues of Philippine Daily Inquirer (December 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.)  “We practically own everything in the Philippines, from electricity, telecommunications, airlines, banking, beer and tobacco, newspaper publishing, television stations, shipping, oil, mining, hotels and health resorts, down to coconut mills, small firearms, real estate, and insurance.”

During his two decades in power the Philippines fell far behind several neighboring countries in East Asia in the pursuit of development, and became “the basket case” in the region. Democracy was destroyed, the economy was in ruins, and the cul­ture of corruption, violence and cynicism aggravated.

Thousands of Filipinos were killed, imprisoned, tortured, displaced from their homes and communities, or simply disappeared without a trace. Also with impunity, women were raped and degraded by the military, po­lice, and other criminal elements. The Communist rebellion spread almost nationwide from just parts of Luzon. And secessionist Moro rebels fought the government in Mindanao. In the garrison state and its war zones hu­man rights were thus regularly violated by the combatants on all sides of the conflict. Marcos’ promise of a Bagong Lipunan (“New Society”) of peace and development with freedom and equity could never happen.

By usurping governmental powers and abusing them, Ferdinand E. Marcos betrayed his public trust to defend the Constitution of the Repub­lic. In fact, to reiterate, he destroyed the Republic of the Philippines as a representative democracy and replaced it with his dictatorial regime. This was backed by the military, his personal Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Party), and a pseudo, rubber-stamp national assembly (Interim Batasang Pambansa, then Batasang Pambansa). In a word, Marcos be­trayed our country.


From “Ferdinand E. Marcos,” written by the editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Evidence emerged that during his years in power Marcos, his family, and his close associates had looted the Philippines’ economy of billions of dollars through embezzlements and other corrupt practices. Marcos and his wife were subsequently indicted by the U.S. government on racketeering charges, but in 1990 (after Marcos’s death) Imelda was acquitted of all charges by a federal court. She was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, and in 1993 a Philippine court found her guilty of corruption.”


From WIKIPEDIA. The Free Encyclopedia. “Today, Filipino citizens are still paying the price on public debts incurred during Marcos’ administration, with ongoing interest payments on the loan schedule by the Philippine government estimated to last until 2025 – 59 years after Marcos assumed office and 39 years after he was kicked out.[113]

Comparisons have … been made between Ferdinand Marcos and Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarian style of governance and Singapore’s success,[118] but in his autobiography, “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000”, Lee relates: “It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics.”[115]

The Marcos family and their cronies looted so much wealth from the country that to this day investigators have difficulty determining precisely how many billions of dollars were stolen.[119] It is estimated that Marcos alone stole at least $10 billion from the Philippine treasury.[120][121][122][123] Adjusted for inflation, this would be equivalent to about $21.6 billion or almost 1 trillion Philippine Pesos in 2014.[124]


Indeed, Filipinos have “a soft, forgiving culture,” as the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said.

“The Marcoses never really left home,” Raissa Robles. October 1, 2014. “When the Marcoses fled Malacañang in 1986, many Filipinos heaved a sigh of relief, thinking they were gone for good. Xxx “Now 28 years later, the Marcoses are parked at the very doorstep of Malacañang, with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ only son and namesake being groomed to retake the Palace come 2016.



“Ferdinand Jr. (Bongbong) is a senator eyeing the presidency; his sister Imelda Jr. (Imee) is governor of their northern stronghold (Ilocos Norte); their mother Imelda is a congresswoman (Leyte, then Ilocos Norte); and their late dictator-dad turned into a saintly-looking icon like the dead Pope that is miraculously preserved inside St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican.” [As the Senate’s critical committee chair in enacting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Senator Bong Marcos is proposing many amendments to President P-Noy’s major proposal and expected legacy.]

 “Religious cults like the Alpha-Omega have sprung to await Marcos’ resurrection. As cult member Teresita Maglahus said in 1993: “We are waiting for a miracle in the Philippines, the new Jerusalem. It will be revealed to our countrymen and other nations that … President Marcos is God.”

“How do you account for such a stunning reversal from ill fortune? Simple. They never really left.” Raissa Robles.

“Political roots intact. The 1986 People Power Revolution did chop down the Marcos political tree. But its intricate roots that spread far and wide across the state bureaucracy and Philippine society remained intact. All the Marcoses had to do was nurture the roots and wait for the tree to grow back.

“In 1998, by Imee Marcos’ own reckoning, “we waited 12 years to be on the right side of the fence.” Right side meant a political alliance with then victorious President-elect Joseph Estrada, velvet seats in Congress for Imee and her mother, and a governorship for Bongbong. [A Marcos loyalist, President-elect Estrada favored the burial of Ferdinand Marcos as a national hero in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, but backed out because of immense opposition to it.]

“An ecstatic Imee spilled the family’s secret to success: “Many professionals were appointed by my father. So you have this immense bedrock of Marcos appointees who keep moving up.”

“Like secret stay-behind units, this vast army of professionals scattered in all sectors of society have defended the Marcoses and helped erase the dark legacy of their regime. For various reasons, no post-Marcos administration made it a point to keep the memory of the atrocities and the greed alive and pass this on to the next generation.

“I remember early on then President Corazon Aquino’s board of censors chief Manoling Morato scolding the public and the media for discussing the Marcos excesses. “Let’s stop demonizing the Marcoses,” he said, after the dictator died in 1989. Morato was probably following the age-old Filipino practice of not speaking ill of the dead.”

We may really be a soft, forgiving, and forgetting nation. And especially because we have a political oligarchy: many of our political leaders belong to well-to-do family dynasties. Most of them are mainly “transactional leaders” focused on political power and patronage for the leaders’ and voters’ support. They are not “transforming leaders” focused on our constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, freedom, justice, love, equality, and peace.”

And most of our over hundred million Filipinos were born after the Marcos dictatorship from September 1972 to February 1986. Our educational system failed to inform them about the nation’s tragic experience under the Marcos dictatorship.

Our nation-state has serious need for basic reform and national development: (1) to modernize our education, culture, and society; (2) to develop our economy, reduce mass poverty, and curb the rapid growth of our population; (3) to strengthen our middle class; and (4) to reform our political institutions in order to be effective in fulfilling our lofty constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and a real democracy under “the rule of law.” Indeed, a very tall, challenging, and continuing task of building our Philippine nation-state. (By Jose “Pepe” Abueva)

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